Internment Without Trial: Operation Demetrius and the
Impact on Inter-Governmental Relations
A dissertation presented in part fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of
BA in Single Subject Major History
Supervisor: Dr. Brian Hanley
UCD School of History and Archives
Literature Review................................................................................................ 7
Chapter I: Build up to Operation Demetrius..................................................... 11
Chapter II: The Irish Government’s Reaction to Internment............................ 22
Chapter III: Internee Brutality and the Impact on Anglo Irish Relations......... 33
Firstly I would like to thank Dr. Brian Hanley for supervising this dissertation and guiding my
research in the right path. I would also like to thank Dr. Michael Staunton who helped with the
early stages of research and was always on hand for insightful advice. I must also thank Dr.
Edward Coleman who has done an excellent job looking after BA Single Subject Major History
students during my time in UCD and his help over the years is much appreciated. I would also
like to thank the UCD archive staff for being very helpful when I needed to research a paper
on their records. Thanks also to all the staff and students within the School of History and those
who attended our Conference earlier this month. Finally, I would like to thank my family and
friends for encouraging me throughout this research project.
As Thomas Hennessey asserts ‘the troubles in Northern Ireland are the tragedy of modern Irish
history’.1 A tragedy which could have been prevented and indeed the decision to introduce
internment in 1971 by Brian Faulkner, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland with the backing
of Westminster, did the opposite to stabilising the situation. This decision added greatly to the
tragedy of this dark period. An article in An Phoblacht illustrates this by claiming ‘no single
decision by the British government in Ireland did more to violate human rights and to escalate
the conflict than the decision to impose internment without trial in the Six Counties.’2 This
security measure was in force between August 1971 and December 1975, a period that
witnessed the internment of nearly 2,000 people. The significance of internment was somewhat
overshadowed in later years of the troubles as people recalled the Bloody Sunday massacre in
January 1972 and the long prison struggles which culminated in the 1981 hunger strikes.
Incidences like Bloody Sunday and the H-Block hunger strikes are central events in the troubles
of Northern Ireland, however would such tragic events of occurred had it not been for
internment? Firstly the march which came under fire from the British Army in Derry on Bloody
Sunday was an anti-internment demonstration. Secondly, the prison struggles and subsequent
hunger strikes arose from the criminalisation policy adopted by the British Government after
internment failed to break republican resistance. Instead of crushing the republican movement,
internment did quite the opposite, stoking the fires of resistance and filling the ranks of the IRA
with nationalists from the beleaguered communities across the Six Counties.3 Internment was
a watershed moment in the history of the troubles as the nationalist community were united in
their hostility towards British forces like never before.
1 Thomas Hennessey, Northern Ireland: The Origins of the Troubles (Dublin, 2005), p. xi.
2 An Phoblacht, 30 July. 2010.
3 An Phoblacht, 30 July. 2010.
As the crisis in 1971 reached its climax, Northern Ireland witnessed the introduction of
internment without trial on 9 August. This dissertation Internment Without Trial: Operation
Demetrius and the Impact on Inter-Governmental Relations examines the effect this decision
had on relations between the London, Dublin and Stormont governments. The first chapter will
look at how the rise in violence from both wings of the IRA, coupled with demands for
internment from unionists forced Faulkner into opting for a security led solution instead of a
political one. This however is complicated by the fact that Sir Harry Tuzo, Governing Office
Commander Northern Ireland of the British Army opposed the introduction of internment. The
general consensus among the commanding ranks of the British Army and the RUC was that
the IRA would welcome and exploit the use of such a measure. Internment was therefore a
security led solution to a political problem and this will be discussed throughout this paper.
This chapter also looks at the relations between Stormont and London in the build up to
internment. While internment could not have been introduced without the acquiescence of
London, the policy indicates a shift towards greater influence of Stormont in what were
previously jointly determined security solutions. This chapter will examine the reasons behind
Westminster’s conciliatory approach to Faulkner and the Stormont administration.
The uproar and reactions of the nationalist community in the North has been well documented,
therefore chapter II will take a step away from the chaos in the wake of internment, instead
looking at the reaction of the Irish government. This chapter will look at how the Irish
government introduced internment previously; complicating the stance Taoiseach Jack Lynch
had to take, with public opinion very anti internment this time around. Also discussed will be
the relationship between London and Dublin in the wake of internment. The stance of both
Lynch and Heath will be examined in particular, with Lynch calling for a political solution and
abandonment of the policy of internment. Heath however defended the security operation and
also ignored the Irish warnings before internment was introduced. This chapter will also
examine the reaction of other Irish parties and political figures to the introduction of internment
but most importantly the paper aims to highlight the impact internment had on souring Anglo-
Irish relations with Westminster advocating a security solution while Dublin called for a
The final chapter of this dissertation will examine how Anglo-Irish relations became further
embittered. The casual brutality of the arresting soldiers and intensive interrogation techniques
used on some of the internees resulted in allegations of internee torture. This shocked the
public, north and south of the border and the Irish government could not be seen to be too co-
operative with their British counterparts, whose security forces were willing to go along with
such savage interrogation methods. This chapter will therefore look at the position the Irish
government now took as relations between London and Dublin took a turn for the worst,
culminating in the Case of Ireland V The United Kingdom of 1978. The British response to
these allegations will also be analysed, looking in particular at the Compton Report which was
released to widespread criticism. After the improvement of relations between Britain and
Ireland during the Lemass era, internment and the subsequent torture allegations released a lot
of tension into the diplomatic atmosphere of both countries. This paper will examine the main
fall outs in the immediate aftermath of internment, dealing with the one sided nature of the
operation and the torture allegations made by internees.
A number of history disciplined books and articles, as well as political science and international
law texts have been used throughout this dissertation. A number of newspapers have also been
used extensively, in particular the Irish Times, Irish Independent and the Irish Press. The Irish
Press was chosen in particular as it is seen to be the newspaper of mainstream nationalism. As
the newspaper most associated with Fianna Fail, it can be said to be representative of the
nationalist stance which the Irish government took, in the wake of internment. Furthermore,
this newspaper was established by Eamon de Valera and controlled by his son Vivion during
the period under review. Due to this background the newspapers irredentist nationalist
credentials are all but assured: ‘the Irish Press retained its republican philosophy throughout
the decade and, in an era of aroused nationalism in the South, it enjoyed a reputation as being
the most nationalist of all nationalist newspapers.’4 Although representing a particular political
viewpoint, it was one of the three major daily newspapers in the country, competing with the
Irish Times and the Irish Independent. These newspapers were used as a lens through which to
view the reactions to the political developments at the time, in particular regarding the Compton
Report in Chapter III. These newspaper sources have been used simply to gain an idea of what
events surrounding internment were making the headlines at the time, making use in particular
of statements made by political figures in the South.
In Chapter III which focuses on torture allegations, the Compton Report was examined,
although it was difficult to accept the conclusions having read extensive newspaper articles,
political stances and historians views criticising this ultimately bias inquiry. The Ireland V UK
Court Case was also reviewed to understand the conclusions from a more impartial judgement.
The UCD archives were also used to research the papers of important political figures like Dr.
4 Mark O’Brien, De Valera,Fianna Fail and the Irish Press (Dublin, 2001), p. 119.
Patrick Hillery, Minister for External Affairs and Garret FitzGerald, T.D which gave an insight
into the political thinking of those involved in Ireland’s dealings with the North. The National
Archives of the United Kingdom (NAUK) also provided this paper with many primary
documents, be it telegram exchanges or minutes of meetings, which give an insight into British
political attitudes to internment. The NAUK was also used to look at meetings between Heath,
Faulkner and the security forces in the build up to internment in Chapter I. It also provided
documents dealing with telegram exchanges between Heath and Lynch in Chapter II. The
memoirs of Brian Faulkner, edited by John Houston were also central to understanding
Faulkner’s position on internment. A number of the more central texts are discussed briefly
William Beattie Smith’s The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis, 1969-73 focuses on
four case studies in the period discussed, depicting how easily a conflict over national identity
can turn into such a violent episode, with atrocities committed on both sides. He makes the
argument of the difficulty it is to quell such tensions and restore peace with violence continually
rising. The author clearly has an acute knowledge of the British and Irish political systems and
outlines British policy used in this period. He deals with the three policies in particular: reform,
coercion and power sharing. Coercion and reform are two policies which are central to this
paper and Beattie Smith gives a valuable insight into how such policies were undertaken or in
the case of reform, scrapped. This book examines also the role the British Army played in
determining British policy, in particular mentioning how the forces resented having to skew
their security operations for political reasons.5
Martin J. McCleery’s article Debunking the Myth of Operation Demetrius: The introduction of
Internment in Northern Ireland in 1971, challenges the accepted narrative, asking was
5 William Beattie Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973 (Washington,2011), p.
Operation Demetrius an indiscriminate attack on the nationalist community? He does not
believe so, stating that while internment was a mistake and yes, the nationalist community were
the ones that suffered, Internment was aimed at crushing the IRA. Although the intelligence
was limited and not poor in his view, the Provisional’s were warned in advance of the initial
swoops which meant the key leaders got away. However with orders to arrest any male over
eighteen if they could not identify the suspect, this resulted in some cases of innocent arrests
and added to this impression that it was an indiscriminate attack. Cleery believes this was not
the case. He backs this argument up by claiming loyalists weren’t interned in fear of a protestant
backlash and re hashes the familiar argument that internment was carried out in part to placate
demands for tougher security measures from hard-line unionists. This article takes a fresh
approach to internment and raises interesting questions of the accepted narrative.6
Tim Pat Coogan’s, The Troubles: Ireland’s Ordeal and the Search for Peace covers the
tortured history of Ireland from the beginning of the civil rights movement, through the years
of violence, and up to the attempts to find peace. This book was particularly useful in providing
a good hard look at some of the internees that came forward during their suffering. Coogan
gives a very detailed and descriptive analysis of the events, in particular, when discussing the
welfare of the internees. It is extremely dense and covers the various events under review in
minute detail which for a project like this, helps the author get a sense of the times and issue at
Finally, Thomas Hennessey’s The Evolution of the Troubles 1970-72 proved to be the perfect
timeframe for this particular area of study, aiding especially with the background to internment
which Chapter I deals with. Like Coogans The Troubles, this book is also very comprehensive
and descriptive dealing with experiences of those on the ground while also combining the
6 Martin J. McCleery, ‘Debunking the Myth of Operation Demetrius: The Introduction of Internment in Northern
Ireland in 1971’, Irish Political Studies, Vol. 27, issue 3 (2012), p. 428.
impact political decisions had on these civilians. This book deals with key areas of this
dissertation, in particular Anglo-Irish relations, the premiership of Brian Faulkner and of course
internment. It proved to be a well balanced and objective book, giving a good blow by blow
account of this period with plenty of information to evaluate.
This review only consulted the main primary documents and authors who have been most
influential in the actual argument presented, and most often referred to in this essay. Many
other authors have been consulted while researching who have impacted upon the thinking
present in this dissertation.
Chapter I – Build up to Operation Demetrius
On 9 August 1971, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Brian Faulkner introduced
internment without trial, a decision made in the wake of escalating violence and increased
bombings in a hostile and unstable Northern Ireland. With Faulkner’s leadership challenged
both from within and from outside the Unionist party, he took a risk on what he hoped would
be a decisive move in restoring the type of law and order which unionists advocated for
decades.7 Across Northern Ireland in the early hours of the morning the British Army and the
Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) implemented Operation Demetrius. Armoured cars roared
into streets, doors were kicked in and people were dragged from their beds by aggressive and
often abusive soldiers, terrifying the targeted families. One wife of a suspect detained captures
this forceful approach in a witness account in which she claimed ‘the troops smashed their way
in, shouting something about Fenian Bastards.’8 The security forces were tasked with interning
450 individuals based on names drawn up by the RUC Special Branch. With 342 people picked
up of the initial list of 450 names, one might presume that many key leaders had been
successfully detained, however due to outdated intelligence, 104 people had to be released
within 48 hours.9 As the identities of those interned became known, outrage spread as it was
clear that the operation was directed exclusively against the nationalist side with no loyalists
taken into custody. How did the situation in the North come to this? Where does one begin?
This dissertation has chosen to begin with the events of 1970.
1970 witnessed the republican movement split into the Provisional and Official wings, the
foundation of two progressive constitutional political parties, the Alliance Party and the Social,
Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and also the much abhorred Falls Curfew. The Falls
Curfew was a British Army operation in search of weapons which quickly escalated into two
days of intense rioting and gun battles between British troops and the Official IRA. The Falls
Road Curfew has been seen as a defining moment in the deterioration of relations between the
army and the nationalist community.10 It gave credence to the republican view that the British
7 McKearney, ‘INTERNMENT, AUGUST 1971’, p. 32.
8 Danny Kennally and Eric Preston,BELFAST August 1971: A Case to be Answered (London, 1971), p. 39.
9 Coogan, The Troubles, p. 126.
10 Gerry Adams, Before the Dawn: An Autobiography (Dingle, 2001), p. 126.
Army was a hostile colonial force of occupation and support for more extremists like the
Provisional IRA (PIRA) and the OIRA increased. It was also the year of the fiftieth anniversary
of Northern Ireland and its government, although the nationalist community had little to
celebrate as they still felt they were an oppressed community. The government’s attempt at
reform proved futile, with many nationalists lending their support to the ever growing
republican movement.11 1971 inherited this tense and hostile atmosphere, resulting in a rise in
violence and sectarian attacks. This chapter will discuss the tension that plagued society in
1971, firstly examining the increasing violence as the months progressed and how support for
paramilitary organisations arose. Secondly with the resignation of Chichester-Clark as Prime
Minister of Northern Ireland, we will look at the role his successor Brian Faulkner played in
this turbulent year. As the crisis in 1971 reached its climax, Northern Ireland witnessed the
introduction of internment without trial. The third aspect of this chapter will look at why
Faulkner, despite commanding officers within the British Army opposed to interment, claimed
that they were running out of arguments against it.12
As 1971 got underway, Douglas Woodwell notes that ‘it was the new leadership of the
Provisional IRA that took advantage of the lingering romantic symbolism associated with
militant republicanism in order to attract and organize the increasing population of radicalized
Catholic youths in Northern Ireland.’13 The Provisional’s campaign for a full scale guerrilla
war was in motion and according to Colonel Michael Dewar they were ‘striking
indiscriminately at civilian and military targets in an endeavour to make the province
ungovernable’.14 Dewar’s words are also reiterated by Brian Faulkner. His memoirs highlights
11 John Houston (editor), Brian Faulkner: Memoirs of a Statesman (London, 1978), p. 99.
12 Thomas Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles 1970-72 (Dublin, 2007), p. 109.
13 Douglas Woodwell, ‘The Troubles of Northern Ireland: Civil Conflict in an Economically Well-Developed
State’, in Understanding Civil War, Vol. 2, ed. Paul Collier and Nicholas Sambanis (Washington, 2005), p. 167.
14 Michael Dewar, The British Army in Northern Ireland (London, 1996), p. 50.
the IRA’s ability to wreak havoc and he notes that they ‘had committed itself to total war
against the state and was demonstrating a capacity to carry it out on a more widespread and
organised scale than ever’.15 This capacity to carry out widespread attacks increased when the
Provisional’s deployed new and extremely dangerous weapons in the form of the car and nail
bomb which invoked fear in the North for years to come. After the events of 1970, the PIRA
had established themselves as the predominant faction in most republican communities in
Northern Ireland and also as the most ruthless. This ruthlessness was evident when on 10 March
three young off duty Scottish soldiers, two of them brothers and one aged seventeen were
picked up by republican women from a Belfast pub and lured to their deaths. Each soldier was
shot in the back of the head by three separate assassins. This cold blooded execution was widely
unpopular and thousands of Belfast shipyard workers took part in a march demanding the
introduction of internment for IRA members.16 From this evidence, it is clear that unionists
were becoming increasingly vocal in their calls for a security solution, putting the Stormont
administration and Prime Minister Chichester Clark under increasing pressure to put an end to
such IRA violence.
The violence was increasing as the months progressed and in Faulkner’s memoirs he highlights
these shocking statistics whereby, over 300 explosions occurred, 320 shooting incidents and
over 600 injuries took place from January-July 1971.17 According to William Beattie Smith,
the Provisional IRA was the main antagonists in causing this surge in violence.18 However this
leads us to the question of was it just the PIRA responsible for such an increase in violence?
The Official IRA was also responsible for some of the violence and as their feud with the
15 Houston, Brian Faulkner: Memoirs of a Statesman, p. 115.
16 Tony Geraghty, The Irish War: The Hidden Conflict Between the IRA and British Intelligence (Baltimore, 2000),
17 Houston, Brian Faulkner: Memoirs of a Statesman, p. 115.
18 William Beattie Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973 (Washington, 2011), p.
Provisional’s intensified, a young PIRA leader Charles Hughes, became a victim of this bitter
rivalry. Vincent Browne, writes in the Irish Press that ‘the present feud within the Republican
movement is a particularly tragic one, for most of those involved were former comrades-in-
arms, and firm friends’.19 Although this feud drew to an end through the mediation of the
clergy, Tim Pat Coogan notes that ‘the general carnage was not so susceptible to change.’ 20
Loyalist paramilitaries were also active at the time, like the UVF, the tartan gangs and towards
the end of 1971the UDA. These paramilitaries began to exert their control over unionist
strongholds, further adding to the intimidating and violent atmosphere of 1971. Coogan
described the UVF as ‘an assassination gang’. Clearly it wasn’t just the Provisionals or the
Officials that were a ruthless force. The other force involved in the violence was the British
Army, who shot dead innocent civilians like Bernard Watt, Sean Cusack and Desmond Beattie.
An article in The Derry People puts forward the question ‘Is not the general situation bad
enough without British soldiers looking to the bullet as the effective answer in “crowd control”
methods?’ The facts suggests that it was not just violence from one side but from within the
nationalist community, unionist community and the supposed liberators the British Army.
Not only was Northern Ireland experiencing a security meltdown but the political situation in
Stormont was also bleak. Within the Unionist Party, internal criticisms never let up with the
re-emergence of William Craig to join Harry West as chief tormentor. Chichester-Clark was
put under extreme pressure and his days as Prime Minister were numbered.21 Pressure was also
coming from the nationalist side as their demands for reform increased, illustrating the need
for a political solution. By March of that year, Chichester-Clark felt he simply exhausted all
19 Irish Press, March 10. 1971.
20 Tim Pat Coogan, The Troubles: Ireland’s Ordeal 1966-1995 and the Search for Peace (London, 1995), p. 138.
21 Graham Walker, A History of the Ulster Unionist Party: Protest, Pragmatism and Pessimism (Manchester,
2004), p. 188.
avenues in attempting to quell the violence and therefore announced his resignation.22 This was
a major setback for the British Government in securing a stable Northern Ireland and Beattie
Smith highlights three major difficulties which now faced Heath and the Home Secretary
Maudling. Firstly, they faced an accelerating campaign of terrorist violence, secondly the
failure of the reform strategy to prevent it and thirdly the continuing disintegration of the
Unionist regime.23 Brian Faulkner was the leading candidate to take over as Prime Minister of
Northern Ireland. Thomas Hennessey makes the point that while the British seemed fairly
relaxed at the prospect of his premiership, in Dublin, the possibility of Faulkner becoming
Prime Minister was not very appealing, although it was better than the alternative William
Craig.24 As expected, Brian Faulkner now succeeded Chichester-Clark in this difficult role as
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, with some commentators highlighting that he was the
Stormont administrations last chance to restore calm before direct rule becomes an unwanted
but only remaining option.
The Premiership of Northern Ireland was not a political prize to be coveted, with two Prime
Ministers falling from power in two years, not because of a defeat in polls but because of a loss
of authority in a deteriorating political and security situation. It was a daunting prospect for
Faulkner but he was the most experienced Minister in the government. On his succession he
faced conflicting political demands, the apparent disintegration of the Unionist Party, and the
escalation of violence. These factors created an atmosphere of fear and confusion in which
demagogues could attract support from the more moderate communities and according to
Faulkner ‘the voice of reason was difficult to make heard’.25 Heath and Maudling welcomed
22 Document Reference: PREM 15/ 476. Record of conversation between the Prime Minister and Major
Chichester-Clark on Friday, 19th March, 1971, at 5:00 pm.
23 Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973, p. 122.
Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles, p. 85.
25 Houston, Brian Faulkner: Memoirs of a Statesman, p. 76.
Faulkner as the best option to replace Chichester-Clark, despite having a reputation as a
hardliner. Maudling considered him a pragmatist and Westminster felt he would comply with
directions from London, instead of an extremist like Craig who they felt would try to implement
With internment being demanded from the more extreme unionists Heath and Faulkner agreed
that it should not be introduced except on the advice of the security forces, yet they still took
precautions by drawing up contingency plans so that it could be introduced at short notice if
necessary.26 Faulkner did not waste much time either to show how tough he could be and on
25 May, 1971, he announced at Stormont ‘any soldier seeing a person with a weapon or acting
suspiciously may fire to warn or with effect [...] without waiting for orders from anyone’.27
Coogan believes it was this announcement by Faulkner which caused the shootings of two
previously mentioned Catholic civilians Sean Cusack and Desmond Beattie by British forces
during rioting in Derry.28 This did not help the political situation in Northern Ireland and it
became further embittered as the SDLP withdrew from Stormont on 16 July because no official
inquiry was announced into the killings.29 This withdrawal further added to the woes of the
Stormont administration as the political state of affairs suffered another blow. Tommy
McKearney, a former hunger striker, sums this situation up aptly by stating ‘by mid 1971
Northern Ireland had reached that critical stage in political struggle where the ruling order was
unable to make transformative change while its opponents were unwilling to accept anything
26 Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973, p. 123.
27 Hamill, Pig in the Middle, p. 53.
28 Coogan, The Troubles, p. 123.
29 http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch71.htm , accessed 26 November, 2012.
30 Tommy McKearney, ‘INTERNMENT, AUGUST 1971: seven days that changed the North’, History Ireland,
Vol. 19, no. 6 (2011), p. 33.
The month of July proved very significant in dictating what policies Faulkner should use to
restore law and order. It was also the main month for marching season and Faulkner notes in
his memoirs that ‘in July there were few if any days were there was not serious violence at one
or more of the trouble spots in Belfast, Londonderry, Lurgan or Newry’.31 The PIRA targeted
business infrastructure to deter capital investment and this culminated in the bombing of the
daily mirror newspaper plant on 17 July, which was the largest and most expensive explosion
of the troubles to date. All the above developments, the increased level of IRA violence
coinciding with the orange marching season, the SDLPs withdrawal from Stormont, the threat
of Faulkner’s unionist colleagues, intense public pressure and the city bombings of mid July,
convinced Faulkner that internment was the only option left.32 By the end of July, it was no
longer the question of will internment be introduced but when?
Although Faulkner had earlier agreed with Heath that internment should only be introduced on
the advice of the security forces, Sir Harry Tuzo, General Officer Commanding Northern
Ireland, was still opposed to its introduction. Faulkner however could not wait much longer as
the violence intensified and telephoned Maudling on 28 July to inform him that with the support
of the cabinet, he believed the time for internment had arrived.33 Government Ministers in
Westminster noted the importance of keeping Faulkner in place as P.M of Northern Ireland, as
they believed he was the only credible candidate they could cooperate with. If Faulkner was
overthrown it would most likely lead to an extremist government led by William Craig or Ian
Paisley. Internment was therefore the last available method which could be implemented short
of a staunchly unionist government or direct rule. At a top secret meeting at Downing Street
on 5 August, those involved in the security operation were still divided on whether internment
31 Houston, Brian Faulkner: Memoirs of a Statesman, p. 115.
32 Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973, p. 125.
33 Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles, p. 120.
was the correct option to take. The Chief Constable Shillington lent his support to internment,
however Tuzo still felt it was not absolutely essential in purely military terms. In the political
sphere, Heath was concerned about the impact internment would have on moderate Catholic
opinion and also outlined that the United Kingdom’s international reputation was at stake here.
Internment was always going to be a contentious issue and the evidence shows that there was
opposing views within the security forces, while also raising uncertainties among Ministers in
One of the main aspects in preparing the final stages of internment was to ensure they had
sufficient intelligence in order to catch the key leaders of the IRA. With the operation
codenamed Demetrius, Major General Robert Ford who recently took over as Commander of
Land Forces (CLF) called a conference between the personnel involved where the final
preparations were discussed. It soon became apparent to Ford that the list of suspects was
extremely questionable.34 The list which was drawn up by the RUC special branch appeared
very out of date, containing files on the older generation of IRA men from the border campaign
in the 1950s and radical civil rights activists. Therefore from the outset Operation Demetrius,
the codename for internment, with this outdated intelligence, appeared destined for failure.35
Robert Ford was further concerned about the security of the operation, believing too many
people in Stormont were aware of the date planned, it was therefore decided to be brought
forward a day to Monday, 9 August. Ford was correct in his suspicions as it emerged many key
leaders of both wings of the IRA were tipped off about the planned raids. The operation
commenced at 4 a.m, despite the supposed reluctance of the British Army and the reservations
of Westminster that it might not work.36 From this chapter, it is clear that not only was their
34 Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles, p. 129.
35 Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973, p. 131.
36 Martin J. McCleery, ‘Debunking the Myth of Operation Demetrius: The Introduction of Internment in Northern
Ireland in 1971’, Irish Political Studies, Vol. 27, issue 3 (2012), p. 417.
pressing security issues to deal with but the political situation was also undermining stability
in Northern Ireland. The withdrawal of the SDLP, the failure of any significant reforms to
appease the nationalist community, the divisions within the Unionist party and of course the
most pressing issue, the increase in violence by paramilitary organisations made up Faulkner’s
mind that internment must be introduced.
Chapter II – The Irish Government’s Reaction to Internment
Internment was a PR disaster, not only for Faulkner and his Stormont administration but for
the British Government and its army. They were responsible for carrying out what was seen as
a one-sided and arbitrary operation against the nationalist community of the North at the behest
of the unionists.37 According to Brian Hanley, the rage that followed internment engulfed
nationalists of all descriptions.38 There was a surge in support for the IRA and the scale of the
fighting that followed had not been seen in Ireland since the 1920s, with seventeen people
killed over the following 48 hours. Atrocities occurred on both sides in the immediate aftermath
of internment, with Private Malcolm Hatton, aged 19, being shot in the head as British troops
and the IRA exchanged fire in the Ardoyne. A short time later however, his alleged assailant,
Provisional IRA volunteer Patrick McAdorey, aged 24, was shot dead by troops.39 In the
nationalist Ballymurphy estate alone, eleven civilians were killed including the priest Fr. Hugh
Mullan who was shot by the British army while going to the aid of a wounded man. In the
midst of this violence, thousands fled their homes as relations between nationalists, unionists
and the British Army reached breaking point.40 From an article in the Irish Independent on 12
August, 1971, it was reported that ‘of almost 5,000 people who have left the city [Belfast] most
have gone to Army camps in the Republic’.41 With refugees now crossing the border, this
immediately brings the Irish Government and the community in the Republic into the sphere
as the situation was not just confined to the six counties. The anger and fury vented by the
nationalists of the North has been well documented, therefore this chapter will focus on
examining the reaction of the Irish Government led by Fianna Fails Jack Lynch and other
important and vocal figures in the Republic.
Despite the Irish Government’s use of internment on previous occasions, indeed it had been
threatened as recently as December 1970 by Minister for Defence Des O’Malley. Why then
northern-ireland/#.ULf0sORg_PD , accessed 27 November, 2012.
38 Brian Hanley, The IRA: A Documentary History 1916-2005 (Dublin, 2010), p. 166.
39 Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles, p. 133.
40 Des O’Hagan, Letters From Long Kesh (Dublin, 2012), p. 5.
41 Irish Independent, 12 August. 1971.
was the Irish Government against internment if they had already used it successfully in the
past?42 Internment had been used as a security measure in every decade in both jurisdictions
since the partition of Ireland. The most recent use of such an extreme measure in the Republic
was during the 1956-62 IRA border campaign. According to Tim Pat Coogan however,
internment was not the factor which defeated this campaign. What principally defeated the IRA
was the lack of support from the Catholic population of Northern Ireland. The nationalist
community in 1956-62 were far more cowed than they were in 1971. The RUC and B-Specials
struck terror in their minds, however times had changed and in 1971, nationalists were no
longer willing to accept their tag as second class citizens. Stirred by the civil rights movement
and angry at the unionists stalling on reform, while also in the main critical of IRA violence,
the nationalist community were determined to put an end to what they perceived as Stormont’s
policy of repression.43 Internment had also been applied in 1940-5,however the IRA campaign
in England was insignificant compared with events of 1971. Even so, both previous examples
of internment witnessed hundreds detained by Irish Governments. This complicates the
approach Jack Lynch had to take to this situation because clearly it is not an issue of principle
considering this policy was used by previous Irish Governments to maintain law and order.44
In the weeks before internment was introduced it was reported in the Irish Times that the Irish
Government was planning on taking tougher police measures to ensure no deterioration in law
and order. The political correspondent wrote that ‘so strong, however, is feeling within the
government for tougher measures that if internment were introduced in the North then it would
follow in the Republic almost at once.’45 This political correspondent however completely
miscalculated the government’s stance as is evident from a telegram sent by Sir John Peck, the
42 Beattie Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973, p. 141.
43 Coogan, The Troubles, p. 129.
44 Irish Times, 15 July. 1971.
45 Irish Times, 15 July. 1971.
British ambassador in Ireland, who attempted to explore the possibility of cooperating with
Dublin on internment. In this telegram reporting back to the British Prime Minister Edward
Heath, Peck notes the reaction of Jack Lynch to plans for introducing internment. Firstly, he
reports that Lynch stated categorically that ‘he could not possibly contemplate internment at
the present time’.46 Justifying this statement, he claimed there were no immediate grounds for
doing so and that such an extreme measure would bring about the collapse of not just his Fianna
Fail Government but any Irish Government which attempted this task. Such words clearly
indicate the government’s unwillingness to introduce a measure which would bring about the
collapse of their power. Peck reports that Lynch then goes onto reaffirm that ‘it was true that
they had threatened it (internment) in a special internal situation last December’. However
despite such threats made so recently, the British Government did not seriously expect Lynch
to introduce internment and made little serious attempts to induce him to do so.
From John Pecks telegram reporting back to the British Government, it is clear Lynch was
totally opposed to introducing internment in the South unless the IRA posed a direct threat to
human life in the Republic. What then was Lynch’s stance on it being introduced in the North
with violence rising at alarming levels? Evidence from Pecks telegram capture the Taoiseach’s
view that internment was the wrong step to take and indeed reflects the views of many of those
in government circles south of the border. Fine Gael for example, although critical of Lynch
not implementing tougher police measures, recognised that there would be grave dangers for
the North in applying internment there and also within the borders of the Republic. Fine Gael
leader Liam Cosgrave was vocal in his concerns that the courts needed to be a more effective
instrument if the situation worsened and stated ‘if the courts were unable to control things then
internment would be justified.’47 Sinn Fein however took the opposing stance to that of Fine
46 John Peck (1971) ‘Sir John Peck secret proposal report’ New Year Releases 2002 Crisis in Northern Ireland.
National Archives UK (30 July 1971) PREM 15/478, London NAUK.
47 Irish Times, 15 July. 1971.
Gael and one particular incident in North Cork on the day of internment captures this. It was
reported in the Irish Press that ‘armed police and detectives raided the homes of Republicans
and their supporters in the North Cork area’. Sinn Fein was critical of the police measures
involved in this situation claiming that ‘the forces of the 26 County State were involved in
intimidation and repression of the Republican people of the South.’ Sinn Fein like most
people in the South were opposed to internment and called on the people that ‘they must
demand an end to internment and repression in the North and no internment and no further
repression in the South.’48 Although the various political parties in the Republic disagreed over
approaches to security, the general consensus was that internment was the wrong policy to
pursue. Lynch urged the British Government through Sir John Peck that they should reflect
very seriously before taking the grave step of introducing internment in the North.49
Lynch believed internment would lead to a surge in the numbers joining the IRA, with even
moderate nationalists identifying with the internees. This is brilliantly described in the telegram
with Peck quoting Lynch as saying ‘if you round up 1,000 people and intern 20 because they
are bad, you immediately make bad people of the other 980.’50 Coogan emphasises this point
by claiming ‘the IRA’s best recruiting agent was the British Army.’51 Boyer Bell also adds to
this accepted narrative by stating ‘internment did not crush the Provos but unleashed them’.52
Peck then mentions the issue of direct rule which seemed to be drawing ever so closer if
Faulkner’s administration fell and his summary of Lynch’s reply was that he would prefer it to
a general election and Paisley or Craig led government. This demonstrates that those in power
in Dublin and London were opposed to a more hard line unionist government led by Craig or
the aforementioned Paisley. This meeting however between Peck, who was in general
48 Irish Press, 12 August. 1971.
49 PREM 15/478 (Sir John Peck secret proposal report).
50 PREM 15/478 (Sir John Peck secret proposal report).
51 Coogan, The Troubles, p. 115.
sympathetic to the Irish Government’s position and Lynch, always ended up with the latter
reverting back to the immediate problem of the ‘unwisdom of internment’.53 On the basis of
this telegram it was clear that the overwhelming consensus from Lynch and the Irish
government was that internment was indeed the wrong option to pursue and that it would do
the opposite of ending the violence in the North.
On the day of Operation Demetrius, a draft telegram to the Taoiseach from Prime Minister
Heath dealt with some of the terms and conditions of internment agreed with the Stormont
administration. He notes how Lynch ‘will understand why it is impossible to give notice or a
decision to introduce internment before the operation to give effect to it’ noting that ‘the
security forces have in fact been carrying out such an operation this morning’.54 Heath explains
some of the agreements made between Westminster and the Stormont administration such as
the ban on marches and parades. Heath notes that ‘the marches due in Derry on 12 August and
in Belfast at the end of the month will not take place’ while also mentioning a ban on rifle
clubs.55 He acknowledges the dangers such a measure will have for the Republic while also
making the point that ‘the effectiveness of internment in Northern Ireland could have been
increased if you had felt able to take similar measures on your side of the border.’56 As
mentioned before, Lynch felt such a policy was not possible and would be disastrous for any
government that pursued such a measure in the Republic.
The most interesting aspect of this document however deals with the important phrase
‘Protestant as well as Catholic and I.R.A extremists will be liable to internment’, which was
then crossed out.57 The British Government acquiesced to demands of Faulkner who in a top
53 PREM 15/478 (Sir John Peck secret proposal report).
54 Heath, Edward. (1971) ‘Draft message from Heath to the Taoiseach’(9 August 1971) New Year Releases 2002
Crisis in Northern Ireland. National Archives UK, PREM 15/478, London, NAUK.
55 Heath, PREM 15/478 (Draft message from Heath to the Taoiseach).
56 Heath, PREM 15/478 (Draft message from Heath to the Taoiseach).
57 Heath, PREM 15/478 (Draft message from Heath to the Taoiseach).
secret meeting at Downing Street on the 5August refused one of the conditions set out by the
British Government. This condition stated that the policy would ‘include a certain number of
Protestants’.58 Faulkner refused to lift some loyalists believing that they were not a threat and
not enough evidence could be provided to warrant their detention. He did not want to appear
to be victimising Catholics but he stated in his memoirs that ‘the idea of arresting anyone as an
exercise in political cosmetics was repugnant to me.’59 Beattie Smith highlights that this clearly
captures a shift from a policy of reform to one of coercion essentially in an effort to sustain the
Stormont administration. Paul Dixon also notes that the British were reluctant to reject
Faulkner’s demands for internment, fearing this would precipitate direct rule.60 Therefore
scrapping a policy of reform and a political solution and instead opting for a security led
solution. Faulkner believed this to be the only remaining option to put an end to the increased
violence occurring in Northern Ireland.
Within days of internment, the Minister for External Affairs, Patrick Hillery flew to London to
meet with Home Secretary Reginald Maudling and deliver his governments protests personally.
Hillery was furious with the situation and the policies being enforced and believed the current
situation would lead to war in Ireland, north and south of the border.61 The Home Secretary
notes how Hillery complained that internment had been directed solely against members of the
Roman Catholic community and emphasised the need for a political solution which would give
the minority a proper opportunity to participate in the governing of the Province.62 Lynch also
telephoned Heath on August 10, after he dismissed Faulkner’s offer to the SDLP of a
committee system at Stormont as too little too late, believing such an idea had been overtaken
58 ‘Note of a meeting at 10 Downing Street’, (5 August 1971) New Year Releases 2002 Crisis in Northern Ireland.
National Archives UK, PREM 15/478 London, NAUK.
59 Houston, Brian Faulkner: Memoirs of a Statesman, p. 119.
60 Paul Dixon, Northern Ireland: The Politics of War and Peace (New York, 2001), p. 118.
61 Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles 1970-72, p. 138.
62 Minutes of a Meeting held at 10 Downing Street (12 August 1971) New Year Releases 2002 Crisis in Northern
Ireland. National Archives UK, CAB 130/522 – GEN (71) 47. London, NAUK.
by the reaction to internment.63 The Irish Government and SDLP were concerned with creating
a political solution to the problems in the North, however this was the opposite to Faulkner’s
security minded solution of introducing internment, which albeit with some convincing, was
backed by Heath. So the policy of internment was after all counter-productive in creating a
In the call with Heath, Lynch notes how the press are in hordes and that the government are
struggling to accommodate the thousands of refugees crossing the border. He also accuses the
army of taking action against one side, letting the Ulster unionists roam and not being told of
their true role. Heath however defends the army as protecting the community and only
retaliating when fired upon, no matter which side of the divide such attacks came from.64 This
is a far cry from when the British army first arrived in Northern Ireland to a welcoming Catholic
community. As one paratrooper stated ‘always tea and coffee from the Catholics........we felt
like Knights in shining armour.’65 These feelings however had long passed and the British army
were no longer seen as peacekeepers but instead as a hostile colonial force of occupation. With
Heath defending the security forces and the general policy of internment, Hennessey highlights
that Lynch, under pressure to prove his patriotic credentials had to go on the offensive.
Anglo-Irish relations deteriorated rapidly in the wake of internment despite a recent message
from Heath to the Taoiseach stating ‘I hope that this [internment] will not be allowed to affect
the good relationship which you and I have established’.66 Such words however did not stop
Lynch from issuing a public statement, denouncing internment and calling for London to
abandon this policy in Northern Ireland. Along with setting up army camps along the border
for Catholics who had abandoned their homes, Lynch also took the decision to publicly endorse
63 Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973,p. 211.
64 Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles, p. 140.
65 Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles, p. 6.
66 Heath, PREM 15/478 (Draft message from Heath to the Taoiseach).
the SDLPs protest campaign, including the rent and rates strike. In his statement which was
released to the Irish press, he states ‘I intend to support the policy of passive resistance now
being pursued by the non-unionist population.’67 This captures how the Irish Government
changed gear from one of cooperation with London and Stormont, the policy instigated by
former Taoiseach Sean Lemass, to a more oppositional stance in support of civil disobedience
which undermined the Northern Ireland states legitimacy. Finally, echoing John Hume, Lynch
demanded that Stormont should be replaced by an administration in which power and decision
making will be equally shared between unionists and non-unionists. This again defines
Dublin’s stance that a political solution should be put forward instead of the disastrous security
led policy of internment.68
It is apparent that relations between Lynch and Heath were deteriorating rapidly in the days
after internment and further evidence of this can be gauged from Heaths curt return telegram
to his Irish counterpart. He claims that Lynch’s statement was ‘unjustified in its content,
unacceptable in its attempts to interfere in the affairs of the United Kingdom, and can in no
way contribute to the solution to the problems of Northern Ireland.’ Heath condemns Lynch’s
reference to supporting a policy of passive resistance believing such a stance is ‘calculated to
do maximum damage to the cooperation between the communities in Northern Ireland’.69
These hostile telegram exchanges which were sent to the press by both statesmen created huge
tensions between Heath and Lynch and certainly did not benefit the situation in Northern
Ireland. Despite Heath desiring that the introduction of internment would not affect the good
relations he had with Lynch, this unfortunately was an optimistic outlook and from the various
telegrams exchanged in the aftermath of internment, the evidence proves that diplomatic
67 ‘Telegrams exchanged between Lynch and Heath’ (19 August 1971) New Year Releases 2002 Crisis in Northern
Ireland. National Archives UK, PREM 15/ 479 (). London, NAUK.
68 Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973, p. 211.
69 PREM 15/ 479 (Telegrams exchanged between Lynch and Heath).
relations took a considerable setback in this tumultuous period. Some commentators however
might point to a meeting on September 27-8 which proves otherwise. For the first time since
1925, the leaders, Heath, Faulkner and Lynch from the three jurisdictions met for talks, which
unfortunately ended with no substantial agreement.70 Beattie Smith however notes that they
did mark a turning point in British policy, regardless of no formal or public agreement being
made. Instead what these talks achieved was that nationalists would be included by right in the
Northern Ireland Government.71
The Irish government’s reaction to internment, despite clearly stating its opposition from the
outset, was complicated by the fact that they introduced internment in the past and had
threatened it as recently as December 1970. The British Government however did not apply
serious pressure on the Irish government to induce them to introduce it this time around. They
did not however take much consideration into Lynch’s warnings of the implication internment
would have. The one-sided nature of which internment was carried out by the security forces
led to an extraordinarily angry public exchange of messages between the two premiers,
momentarily flinging diplomatic convention to the wind. Despite both leaders calming down
and personal contacts continuing, this did not remove the difficulties that lay ahead since Heath
continued to advocate his faith in a security solution while Lynch held that the problem was at
root political. There were many matters on which both heads of government were never to
agree, especially regarding security. Lynch stuck firmly to his belief that internment should be
ended, while Heath retorted that the Irish Government should take much stronger actions
against the IRA south of the border, something of which Fine Gael was also critical. Many
70 Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973,p.213.
71 Smith, The British State and the Northern Ireland Crisis 1969-1973,p. 214.
more damaging Anglo-Irish spats lay ahead and in the next chapter of this paper, one of these
spats dealing with the treatment of internees and allegations of torture will be examined.72
Chapter III – Internee Brutality and the Impact on Anglo-Irish Relations
The previous chapter clearly illustrates that Anglo-Irish relations took a severe battering in the
wake of internment. Tensions between London and Dublin became further embittered when
72 David McKittrick and David McVea, Making Sense of the Troubles (London, 2000), pp 72-3.
allegations of internee torture began circulating. Reports in the press of the RUC and British
Army’s use of brutality and torture as a method of interrogation shocked the public. The Irish
Government came under increasing pressure to do something about these accusations. These
stories further deepened the outrage experienced by the nationalist community in Northern
Ireland and also fuelled anger south of the border. The combination of botched arrests and
stories of brutality in the internment holding centres unleashed a wave of violence across the
north. In this environment Jack Lynch could not be seen to be overly cooperative with the
British who had given Brian Faulkner the go ahead for internment. This chapter will explore
how the Irish Government handled these accusations. We will also examine the British
Government’s approach to dealing with the situation as public fury increased not only in
Ireland but also in Britain itself and indeed further afield. Anglo-Irish relations will be further
assessed in this chapter as various contentious issues such as the Compton Report and the
Ireland V UK court case added to the tense and hostile diplomatic atmosphere in the aftermath
of Operation Demetrius.
Various methods of systematic torture were carried out by the security forces which shocked
the public and even some members within the British Army itself. It was reported that this
alleged brutality led to the desertion of a young Tyrone soldier from the British Army ‘because
the sight of the internees’ pitiful conditions in Magilligan Camp in Co. Derry had sickened
him.’73The treatment of eleven men in particular became a source of considerable contention.
These men who became known as the ‘hooded men’ were submitted to a form of ‘interrogation
in depth’ which involved the combined application of five particular techniques. These
methods, sometimes termed ‘disorientation’ or ‘sensory deprivation’ techniques consisted of
the following, hooding, subjection to continuous white noise, forced to stand in stressful
73 Irish Press, 3 September. 1971.
postures for long periods of time and deprivation of sleep, food and drink. These techniques
were never officially authorised in writing or any official document by the British Government,
however they had been orally taught to members of the RUC by the English Intelligence Centre
at a seminar held in April 1971.74 Clearly, British security forces had intended using these
techniques months in advance of Operation Demetrius.
In a meeting on 18 October in Downing Street it was reported by Lord Carrington, the Secretary
of State for Defence that the methods of interrogation used by the security force ‘were regarded
as proper’. These methods deemed as ‘proper’ included techniques designed to isolate
detainees subject to interrogation, to prevent them from obtaining any sense of time, location
and to impose fatigue by exposure to insistent and disturbing noise called ‘white sound’ or
‘white noise’. In this meeting it was also noted that the RUC conducted the interrogation with
the Ministry of Defence providing supervision. Carrington also reports that ‘the selection of
persons to be interrogated was left to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.’ This highlights
the close and personal role Brian Faulkner played in the dealings with internees during this
turbulent period. According to Carrington’s reports it appeared that the RUC were at first
reluctant to use the methods advanced by the Joint Services Interrogation Wing (JSIW),
although accounts of this varied. Those members of the RUC were assured however that they
would not come under any criticism so long as they stuck by the instructions for the conduct
of interrogation given to them by the JSIW. Faulkner’s personal involvement in the
interrogation process gives credence to Beattie Smiths words that by introducing internment,
the Governments of Stormont and London had shifted from a policy of reform to one of
coercion essentially in an effort to sustain the Unionist administration.
74 F.F Martin, S.J Schnably, R. Wilson, J. Simon, M. Tushnet, International Human Rights and Humanitarian
Law: Treaties, Cases, and Analysis (New York, 2006), p. 315.
Those present at this meeting under consideration included the Prime Minister Edward Heath
and the Chief of the General Staff Sir Michael Carver and one interesting point discussed dealt
with hooding and being made stand spread-eagled for long periods of time. At the meeting it
was agreed that these methods were ‘unnecessarily harsh’ and were absent from Carrington’s
list of ‘proper’ methods. Members of the meeting also agreed that although the interrogation
techniques under discussion did not need specific approval of United Kingdom Ministers,
future proposals of such interrogations should be ‘specifically approved by the Prime Minister,
the Home Secretary and the Secretary for Defence.’ This highlights that these allegations of
brutality did have an impact on British Government thinking and they wanted to resolve the
issue to avoid future outbursts of anger and support for those detained. However, despite
making the point that some of the techniques used during the interrogations were unnecessarily
harsh, those at the meeting do highlight that ‘the lives of British soldiers and of innocent
civilians depended on intelligence.’ Nonetheless it was also noted that it is important that such
methods of interrogation do not overstep the proper bounds.
The minutes of this meeting on 18 October clearly show that the British politicians were
concerned about the reports of brutality. Although this concern may not be for the internee’s
welfare but as previously mentioned, Heath was concerned for the United Kingdom’s
international reputation. However they make the point that ‘we were dealing with an enemy
who had no scruples and we should not be unduly squeamish over methods of interrogation in
these circumstances.’ This is a pivotal question, when does one overstep the boundaries when
it comes to interrogation? Clearly the British Government believed that, yes, they should
reconsider their techniques and use those interrogation methods deemed ‘proper’ in future
situations, however to sum up their stance, the common saying ‘desperate times calls for
desperate measures’ seems apt. Despite the British Government flip flopping around the issue
of what is deemed ‘proper’ conduct and what is overstepping the boundaries, they were still
willing to go along with these systematic methods of torture so long as intelligence was
The methods of interrogation used in Northern Ireland were similar to those employed in
Cyprus, Aden and Malaysia in past counter-insurgency excursions. The British Government
held the belief that such intelligence obtained as a result of these techniques was significant in
their efforts to combat IRA terrorism. Although in the wake of the allegations and the angry
reaction from the public, the British Government were forced to re-evaluate future plans for
interrogation. The key results of this meeting, as summed up by Edward Heath, was that ‘no
further interrogations involving such techniques as hooding and ‘spreadeagling’ of detainees
and ‘white sound’ were to be carried out except with his authority, and that of the Home
Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence.’ This is not to say that the security forces
forego any permissible means of securing intelligence but that they must get orders from the
British Ministers mentioned above in future with regards their methods of interrogation. The
British accepted that something had to be done to avoid future accusations which not only
increased the tension in the North, embittered Anglo-Irish relations but also damaged the
British security forces and the government’s reputation internationally. The decision was
therefore taken in (....) to ban the five techniques as described above.
Mimi conclusion. Link up above paras, consider the role of the Brits and the nature of their
compromise on torture. Refer to secondary sources and agree/disagree with their assessment.
Impact of Internment on government relations in the Troubles (Dublin, Belfast and London)
Soured relations. It brought to the fore the difference of policy (political sol v. Security).
In response to these reports of torture and brutality, Reginald Maudling, the British Home
Secretary set up an official inquiry under the chairmanship of a retired civil servant, Sir Edward
Compton. Compton a former British and Northern Ireland Ombudsman conducted the inquiry
along with Dr. Donald Gibson, chairman of the British Medical Association Council and Mr.
Edgar Fay, Q.C, who conducted an inquiry into the Munich air disaster of 1958.75 It was this
team’s duty to investigate all the allegations of physical brutality which the internees were
alleged to have suffered. Although allegations were made by internees, they were so mistrustful
of the British and Compton that only one detainee consented to give evidence.76 Eddie McAteer
also notes reasons for the lack of evidence from the internees by claiming that ‘the internees
were discouraged from giving evidence by not being allowed to have legal representation.’77
With the inquiry also being made in private, the Crumlin Road Prisoners’ Committee said in
the wake of the inquiry that they would not co-operate with this tribunal, unless it was a
completely public, impartial body with an internationally accepted chairman. Bernadette
Devlin M.P. was also vocal in her criticism describing the terms of reference of the inquiry as
‘farcical’ while also criticising those involved in the inquiry claiming one of them was an ex-
Although there was no official reaction from the government in Dublin to the inquiry’s terms
of reference, Fine Gael took it upon themselves to join in the criticism of this inquiry committee
which was composed entirely of British members. The party’s spokesman on Foreign Affairs,
Richie Ryan, T.D, sent a letter to the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Patrick Hillery T.D.
setting out the reasons why their party found the inquiry unacceptable. Fine Gael again
reiterated the main complaints against the inquiry complaining of it being held in private and
75 Irish press, 2 September. 1971.
76 Coogan, the troubles, p. 129.
77 Irish Independent, 17 November. 1971.
also of no legal representation for the complainants.78 From these various newspaper reports,
it is clear that there was widespread opposition to this inquiry from the outset. The British
Government were hoping that Compton and his team of investigators would calm the
situation; instead further evidence of their miscalculations of the situation in the North is
exposed. From the views from the South, it is evident that many in government and outside
were becoming increasingly opposed to British policy in the North. Britain’s role as an
independent and neutral actor in the troubles had long been debunked and with the British still
intent on pressing ahead with their security solution, the Irish Government continued to
advocate the problem was at root, political.
From the outset, this inquiry was limited with most internees, bar one, refusing to give
evidence. Throughout the course of the investigation the inquiry committee used
documentation by the army and police force while also making particular use of the medical
records for testing allegations of physical ill-treatment. They visited the three Regional Holding
Centres, Ballykinler, Magilligan and Girdwood Park and also the two places of detention, the
Maidstone and Crumlin Jail. The evidence for the report was taken from 95 oral accounts from
the British army, 26 from the police, 11 from prison personnel and 11 from doctors. From this
evidence, the inquiry decided that the allegations did not amount to brutality but rather ill
treatment. The key distinction being made was between ‘brutality’ on the one hand and ‘ill-
treatment’ on the other. Brutality is a worse form of ill-treatment with Compton defining it as
‘an inhuman or savage form of cruelty, and that cruelty implies a disposition to inflict suffering,
coupled with indifference to, or pleasure in, the victim’s pain’. According to the inquiry
brutality is something the British soldiers and RUC involved did not commit and Compton
believed the use of the five techniques was morally justifiable.79 After the report was released
It is clear from the report that there were very few complaints, and those that were had in the
committees view, very little substance. The record of events reflects great credit on the security forces
[...] the committee have found no evidence of physical brutality, still less of torture or brain washing.80
Unsurprisingly, the nationalist community felt that the Compton report was overwhelmingly
biased. The Compton report was clearly a whitewash and again undermined the British
Government of their ability to handle the situation in Northern Ireland. Such a report hardly
gave confidence to the Irish Government that Britain was sincere in achieving justice for the
internees and in the wider nature of things, in finding a solution to the Troubles.
One such victim who was part of the group of internees who became known as the ‘hooded
men’ was Kevin Hannaway. The hooded men were subject to the five techniques for a number
of days and their stories became a source of outrage in the wake of internment, with many
nationalists and non-nationalists disgusted at their treatment. Unlike the vast majority,
Hannaway did receive damages for the treatment he suffered at the hands of the security forces.
Hannaway’s story is similar to many other internees and captures some of the brutal treatment
that many of these men suffered. He speaks of his experience in which he tells Tim Pat Coogan:
After they arrested me, I was thrown into a lorry where I got a kicking. Then i was taken to another
barracks where I got another Kicking. They took me in a helicopter and told me they were going to
throw me out. I thought we were hundreds of feet up, but were only a few feet. They set Alsatians on
me. My thigh was all torn, and they made me run in my bare feet over broken glass.81
79 Tobias Kelly, This Side of Silence:Human Rights,Torture, and the Recognition ofCruelty (Philadelphia,
2012), p. 32.
80 Coogan, the troubles, p. 129.
81 Coogan, the troubles, p. 127.
Hannaway was then subject to the ‘five techniques’ as mentioned above. Another man, Patrick
Shivers, tells of his experience during the week of torture, in one interview he stated ‘I heard
men crying out for death and I still hear those men crying today’.82 These experiences were not
isolated and many other internees also suffered like Kevin Hannaway and Patrick Shivers, not
just physically but also mentally. It is a fair assessment to say that the Compton report was
indeed biased and did not give justice to those who were subject to this brutality or ‘ill-
treatment’ as officially declared by the Compton Report.
The Compton Report was controversial to say the least with many important figures claiming
that the inquiry was biased and inconclusive. Sinn Fein was one party who were very critical
of the report’s findings. In a statement they claimed that the Commission desperately tried to
minimise the extent of the ‘licensed savagery that happened’ while also adding that ‘it is
obvious that there can be no impartiality where the British are acting as judges.’ Gerry Fitt, the
leader of the SDLP described the Report as ‘an exercise in semantics in making a distinction
between brutality and ill-treatment.’83 The Derry Nationalist Party was also very vocal in their
criticism of the Report, and backed up Gerry Fitt’s words, issuing a vehement statement
Let Britons indulge themselves in semantics about the difference between brutality and ill-
treatment [...] the inescapable fact is that outside Britain the Compton Report will be taken as proof that
Britain has embraced the principles of totalitarianism and, in trying to preserve the rotten Stormont
system, has betrayed all the principles of democracy which the naive Briton cherished.
Vocal figures from the Republic who also criticised the Report included the leader of Aontacht
Eireann and former Fianna Fail Government Minister Kevin Boland, who described the Report
as ‘euphemistic’ and that only the defence side had been represented. Other noteworthy
reactions include that of the former Chairman of Amnesty International, Anthony Marreco who
82 Coogan, the troubles, p. 127.
83 Irish Independent,17 November. 1971.
accepted the findings of the Compton Report, but did criticise the actual internment operation
stating it was carried out in ‘inefficient and reprehensive’ manner.84 From this evidence it was
clear that the nationalist community and those that represent them felt that the Compton Report
was an insult to the internees, their families and supporters. The Kerryman newspaper sums up
the thoughts of many of those critical of the Report with the words ‘Whitewash. Buckets of
From various statements and newspaper articles, it is evident that the vast majority of
nationalists and people from the Republic believed that the Compton Report was prejudiced
and did not highlight correctly the suffering inflicted upon many of the internees. This leads us
to the question of how did the British public and politicians react to these allegations and the
resulting Compton Report. The House of Commons debate on the Report yielded evidence that
captures a mixed reaction to how the British Army was operating in Northern Ireland. Not
every politician was satisfied with their operations especially in the wake of these allegations.
According to an article in the Irish Independent, the editor reports that ‘there are M.Ps and
there are British newspapers speaking out about the moral dilemma their Government is in over
the handling of some prisoners.’ This article also highlights how the issue has been raised
regarding the interrogation methods used and that if the British Government can justify that
these methods yield results, it is time to start rethinking its policies. The decision to hold a
private inquiry which was not met favourably from the nationalist community was also
condemned by M.Ps in Westminster. There was even a committee set up opposed to internment
which was supported by 34 Labour M.Ps and leading British Trade Unionists, who planned a
series of public protest meetings throughout the country to mobilise opinion in Britain against
the policy of internment. In a statement issued by the Labour Party Committee Against
84 Irish Independent,17 November. 1971.
85 The Kerryman, 20 November. 1971.
Internment they said ‘If the British Government has nothing to hide and the British troops have
nothing to hide why do they refuse to hold a public inquiry?’ Labour of course would go on
and end internment in 1975 while in power, although it was far from an immediate action upon
taking office the year before. Clearly there were different views within the British
establishment to internment and the surrounding controversies.
The Irish government had to consider various strategies in relation to Northern Ireland during
the decade, whether it be the possibility of military intervention or internationalising the
situation to secure a foreign military or peacekeeping presence.86 The situation in the North
was constantly an issue of concern in Leinster House and with northern nationalists and
republicans accusing the Irish government of showing blind support for British policy and
outrage in the south over the treatment of the internees, Lynch’s position as Taoiseach was
becoming heavily scrutinised and he had to act.87 Jack Lynch made a statement claiming the
Compton Report, together with investigations being made by the Irish Government ‘provided
very substantial evidence showing a very grave state of affairs in the administration of justice
in the North.’88 Fine Gael was also pushing for Lynch to act and their Foreign Affairs
spokesman Richie Ryan appealed to the government:
‘to exercise its right under Article 24 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights
to refer to the European Commission of Human Rights a complaint of breach by Britain of the
provisions of Article 3 of the Convention prohibiting torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or
With pressure from various political parties like Fine Gael and the general public, the Irish
Government in line with their policy of internationalising the situation brought what became
known as the ‘torture case’ to the European Court of Human Rights. This case was lodged by
86 Diarmaid Ferriter, Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s, p. 168.
87 Ferriter, Ambiguous Republic, p. 180
88 Irish Independent, 17 November, 1971.
89 Irish Press, 2 September, 1971.
the government of Ireland against Britain with the European Commission of Human Rights on
16 December 1971 under Article 24 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms.90 This case dragged on for several years, becoming a source of
considerable tension between the Irish and British Governments.91 The Irish Government’s
response to these allegations becomes a lot more hard line and they make this decisive move
in order to force the British to change policy and engage in a political solution.
‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.
This is Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights and was the central issue in the
case being brought against the British Government by Ireland.92 Although internment had
ended in December 1975, with close to 2,000 people interned during this time, it was not until
September 2 1976, that the European Commission of Human Rights adopted its lengthy and
significant report with the following findings regarding article 3. The Commission ruled
unanimously that the ‘combined’ use of the five techniques ‘constituted a practice of inhuman
treatment and torture in breach of article 3 of the Convention.’93 In the Ireland v UK case, in
addition to the five interrogation techniques, the commission also looked into cases of beatings,
however these beatings somehow amounted, not to torture but to inhuman treatment.94 The
hearings before the European Court of Human Rights were held in 1977, in the months of
February and April with the judgement being delivered on January 18 1978. The Court in a 16-
1 decision judged that the interrogation techniques were not torture, but were inhumane,
degrading, and designed to be ‘humiliating and debasing’ to prisoners. The Court also found
91 Pat coogan, troubles.P. 129
94 Nigel S. Rodley, The Treatment of Prisoners Under International Law p. 105.
that the detention and interrogation of internees also violated Article 5 of the European
Convention on Human Rights that stipulates that prisoners have a right to know the charges
against them. They are entitled to be speedily brought before a judge and have a trial or be
released.95 These Court Cases and different hearings undoubtedly had a negative impact on
relations between Dublin and London and indeed became a source of considerable tension
throughout the decade.
95 Mary L. Volcansek (ed) and John F. Stack Jr., Courts and Terrorism: Nine Nations Balance Rights and
Security (Cambridge, 2011), p. 77.