Friday, May 27, 2005

A ROUGH DEAL .......

Ten years ago EDDIE GALLAGHER went to prison for his part in the kidnapping of TIEDE HERREMA . He is still there , even though he did a deal which promised him only four years in jail . His accomplice , MARION COYLE , has been released . DEREK DUNNE reports on GALLAGHER's maverick relationship with the IRA , on the negotiations which led to the release of TIEDE HERREMA and on the roots of GALLAGHER's involvement .
First published in 'MAGILL' magazine , January 1986 , pages 6 , 7 , 8, and 9 .

In 1978 , the then Free State Minister for Justice , Gerry Collins (Fianna Fail) wrote to Marion Coyle's mother in Derry and stated that the two conditions attached to the (early release) deal were broken by Ms Coyle - she was said to have assaulted a Ban (female) Garda on November 26 , 1975 . She was released late last year (ie 1985) having served ten of the fifteen years imposed on her .

Last October (ie October 1985) Eddie Gallagher's solicitor wrote to the Bishop of Raphoe , the Most Reverend Dr. S Hegarty , looking for support on several grounds with a view to entering a petition to the Free State Department of Justice for his release .

Some of the grounds included the fact that members of the UDA served less than one-third of their sentences when convicted and jailed in the 'Republic' ; the fact that the Littlejohns served eight out of their fifteen and twenty years respectively ; the fact that there is fifty per cent remission in the Six Counties ; the fact that he treated his trial as a formality on the basis of the agreement which he had entered into ; the fact that vision in one of his eyes is impaired eighty per cent ; the fact that he spent thirty-nine days on hunger strike ; the fact that his father is permanently hospitalised and he has not seen him for over ten years ; the fact that he has a ten-year-old son whom he has seen only twice in the last ten years .

However , the fact remains that Eddie Gallagher and Marion Coyle released Tiede Herrema unharmed on the basis that they would not serve more than four and two years in jail respectively , and the authorities refused to honour the undertaking . The siege might not have ended so peacefully if they had known what was going to happen . Tiede Herrema fully expected the deal to be honoured ; more importantly , the credibility of anyone attempting to make some similar arrangement at some future date in similar circumstances is undermined .

If Eddie Gallagher serves the same sentence as Marion Coyle on a pro-rata basis , he will be released in 1988 . He would then have served more than nine years longer than he envisaged when he surrendered on November 7 , 1975 .......


The Life And Times Of Gerry Fitt.
By Nell McCafferty .
First published in ' MAGILL' magazine , July 1983 .

Mary Holland was crying - with vexation , frustration , anger , outrage and pity . She rang Bernard Levin ; he rang David Frost . 'The Observer' newspaper front-paged her story of October 5 March , and directed readers to the back-ground expose on the inside pages . David Frost came to Northern Ireland (sic) within days to do a live programme . The media wall burst to flood Britain with the facts . ('1169... ' Comment - this scribbler , for one , doubts that the British people ever have got the 'facts' about their government's involvement in this country . And certainly not from 'The Observer' or any other British newspaper.)

Gerry Fitt had done what he set out to do ; he had turned the spotlight on the North of Ireland , though he was run off his feet in the process . 'The Irish News' newspaper recorded proudly that on one historic day he attended Belfast Corporation as Councillor , in the morning , Stormont as MP for Dock in the afternoon , and Westminster as MP for West Belfast in the evening .

To Unionist protests that the whole civil rights thing was a plot by communists , republicans , intent on overthrowing the 'Crown' , murdering gunmen standing in the wings etc , Fitt would say across the floor of Stormont - " ... when I was on the Murmansk convoy .. " . He then reminisced about the dangers of the merchant seaman's lot in World War Two when he had helped defend Britain and the 'Free World' : the titled peers and majors on the Stormont government benches , most of whom had never fought in the war , chewed their lips .

The 'reasonable' response from the 'reasonable' members of Westminster , by which Gerry Fitt had set such store , came in the 'Cameron Report .......' ('1169 ... ' Comment - ...and here we are , some 30 years after Gerry Fitt expected a "reasonable response from reasonable members of Westminster ... " , witnessing another Gerry expecting much the same . 'Lord Adams' , anyone ...)


A DECADE OF CENSORSHIP .......Bernadette Quinn looks at the development of SECTION 31 of the Broadcasting Act , used by the Free State government to suppress the Republican viewpoint on state radio and television - and extended by Radio Telefis Eireann itself into a regime of self-censorship . From ' IRIS ' magazine , November 1983 .

The clearest exposure of Section 31 censorship occurred during the 1982 general election in the Free State ; Sinn Fein fielded seven candidates and as such were entitled to make a party political broadcast on RTE . RTE agreed , but Patrick Cooney at Posts and Telegraphs ordered that Section 31 should be extended to include electoral broadcasts !

The Sinn Fein candidate in Cooney's own constituency of Longford/Westmeath , Sean Lynch , took an action in the High Court claiming that Section 31 was unconstitutional and interfered with his rights - the High Court agreed , and ruled that Section 31 of the 1976 (Amended) Broadcasting Act was repugnant to the Free State constitution . Making the ruling , Justice Hanlon said that the amendment to Section 31 " ... appeared to contain insufficient safeguards for the constitutional guarantee of the right of freedom of expression of opinion , with particular reference to the freedom of the press . "

Patrick Cooney immediately took the case to the Supreme Court , where the Chief Justice , Kevin O'Higgins , over-ruled the High Court and upheld Cooney's ban on a Sinn Fein election broadcast .
As well as being used to suppress any political comment by Sinn Fein , the indirect effect of Section 31 creates a self-censoring atmosphere in RTE that even prevents the playing of certain records (!) : 'The Men Behind The Wire' topped the charts in the South for weeks during the 1970's but was never played on RTE . And that was'nt the only song to be 'banned' .......