“Who will you believe, the police or the suspects?” Justice John Donaldson is not the first judge to undermine defense lawyers with a question like that but he made this biased statement and others while he was presiding over the trial of Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong, Carole Richardson, and Gerry Conlon – a group of Irish suspects who were also known as the Guildford Four. The highly publicized case was covered widely and all of the judge’s snide remarks and opinions were too. This pointed question was the last nail in the coffin for the Guildford Four. When the guilty verdicts came back, Donaldson regretted that he could not hang the suspects and went on the record saying so during sentencing. The judge imposed the longest sentence in the history of English law (at the time) against Paul Hill saying, “Your crime is such that life must mean life, and if the death penalty had not been abolished, you would have been executed.” In the subsequent case where many of their friends and family members were accused of bomb making (known as the Maguire Seven) similarly harsh and opinionated sentences were handed down, despite one suspect’s serious illness and another being only fourteen years of age. Donaldson never backtracked from his remarks on the bench, even after he was heavily criticized for them. He was silent when the IRA claimed responsibility for the bombs, when it was proven that the police had suppressed evidence and lied throughout the trials, and when those he had so gravely threatened were declared innocent fifteen and sixteen years later, respectively. Continue reading
Love him or hate him, Eamon De Valera was perhaps the most influential man in Irish History, despite the fact that he was born in the United States. He helped create the political machine of modern Ireland and his influence is still being felt (and untangled) today, forty-one years after his death.
The news out of Ireland this week has been insane – so much so that I haven’t even been able to decide which story to write about or how to keep up. There’s so much going on, and it kind of makes me want to put the entire region on a time out, just so I can catch up. In case you missed some, here are just a few of the things that have been interesting me, in the last seven days alone.
Forty-five years ago today the Parachute Regimen of the British Army was sent to Belfast to take part in Operation Demetrius, the fancy codename the government used for internment. They were to detain and arrest anyone who they thought was either involved in or supporting the Provisional IRA, but sending the Paras in to do this was rather like setting off a grenade to stop a fist fight. Over the next few days in the Ballymurphy area alone, eleven civilians were killed. Many who were killed were just trying to get away from the trouble and some were shot while helping others.
This has been a banner week for the Trump campaign, if by banner you mean “holy crap, look at all the new levels of unimaginable disrespect and unbridled hate.” The guy insulted a Gold Star family because of their faith and then accepted a Purple Heart from another veteran with a flippant comment before sticking it in his pocket. He threw a baby out of his rally. A video of racist, horrible things that his supporters say and shout at his rallies was just released and rumor has it that his campaign staff is near suicidal. In my opinion, this implosion couldn’t happen to a better man. When the Irish and the Irish Americans started jumping into the fray, I jumped for joy and pretty much haven’t stopped laughing since.
One hundred years ago today, Roger Casement was executed at Pentonville Prison in London. In record time, Casement had gone from being a world-renowned humanitarian and a Knight in high standing to a treasonous pervert who was shunned by many of those he once called friends. He was hanged on August 3rd, 1916, for his failed attempt to bring German support and weaponry to Ireland for the Easter Rising and for other “crimes” he committed in his pursuit for Irish freedom.
Casement’s knightly betrayal embarrassed the English government and they were not content to simply kill him.They stripped him of his knighthood and thoroughly destroyed his reputation before making him face the noose. He was the only man associated with the Rising who was killed in this fashion and the only one who died on foreign soil. This was an added insult to someone who had devoted many years of his life to Ireland and its fight for independence.