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February 09, 2008


Tom Griffin

Just on the paranormal COIN theme:

"Information Policy, with the generous help of one or two selected serving officers, had set up 'magic circles' in derelict houses in the Republican areas. Colin bought bundles of black candles for the purpose. Out in the country the Army's own covens were even more realistic. Colin and his colleagues managed to get hold of some genuine chicken blood and feathers."

From Who Framed Colin Wallace, p145. Very effective in keeping the public away from observation posts apparently.

Dan Hardie

Hmm, poor framed Colin Wallace. Like poor framed Hanratty, whose innocence was also proved by Paul Foot, pesky DNA evidence notwithstanding.

And if the black mass story really is true, rather than the product of an especially liquid lunch, the IRA's intelligence officers really should club together to send Wallace a gift voucher. After all, he gave them a damn big present if he really did make sure that the locations of certain observation posts became the number one topics of local pub gossip.


pesky DNA evidence notwithstanding

Pesky, but deeply unreliable.

Dan Hardie

The CPS and/or the police managed to get fragments of Hanratty's semen into the underwear of the woman he was alleged to have raped, and further DNA traces onto the gun he was alleged to have carried, forty years after his execution? And not only that, but they then persuaded his family to call for the DNA tests? What devilish ingenuity.


I don't think "fragments of Hanratty's semen" can be supported here. There was semen in the underwear, but the test was carried out, as you say, forty years later on a scrap of fabric that had been stored and didn't have fragments of semen on it - if it did, the DNA tests could have been carried out years earlier. The nature of the PCA reaction is that it amplifies DNA, so the DNA match could have come from a scrap of skin cells (quite important given that the handling of exhibits to avoid DNA cross-contamination was a bit approximate in those days). Ditto the gun. The family can be forgiven for buying into the hype about DNA tests, but somebody should have advised them that given the storage practices, it was very unlikely that a DNA test would have cleared Hanratty.

I personally think that the argument that absence of any other DNA means that Hanratty did it is quite convincing (although I'm not an expert and a lot would depend on precisely how the tests were carried out), but I don't think he would have been convicted on the basis of the DNA evidence available if it had been presented today and I don't think that the belief that Hanratty was innocent in the face of the DNA evidence is totally unreasonable on Bayesian grounds.

I certainly don't think that the implied chain of reasoning - Foot thought Hanratty was innocent - Foot is an idiot - Foot was wrong about everything - Colin Wallace was guilty is particularly valid and seem to remember saying so when Oliver Kamm posted the first three stages of it in one of his charming obituaries.

Although I have to say wow! "managed to get hold of *genuine* chicken blood and feathers"! In Ireland, that notorious land without chickens! Imagine!


I was posted a link to that particular obituary with the subject line Ugh. It was my first encounter with Ollie.

Dan Hardie

No, I must admit that Foot was right- and more than right, he was admirably persistent- in campaigning for the release of three men convicted of the Bridgewater farm killing. He was neither an idiot nor wrong about anything, but I do rather feel his scepticism got switched off at times, when he was presented with evidence which agreed with his preconceptions.

And I have to say I get so sick of hearing people like Tom Griffin banging on and on about this or that crime or alleged crime in Ireland when, say, the IRA bombing Enniskillen or shooting a busload of the linen workers is never what they have in mind. Wave your damn Republican flag, just stop pretending that you care equally about all victims of murder.


I'm struggling to link that last paragraph to any of the previous. Could you fill in the gaps for me?

Dan Hardie

If you're so stupid that you can't understand why I mentioned Tom Griffin on this thread, perhaps I should teach you how to tie your shoelaces as well. If it's permissible to make New Year's resolutions in February, mine is to make that the last thing I say to the saddest and most self-important troll in the British blogosphere.

Chris Williams

Shorter Dan: "You're right, but fuck off anyway." There was me thinking that it was ages since he'd had one of his funny turns. Personally, I can think of many good reasons why the state should be held to a higher standard than non-state actors, but perhaps that's just me.


Well, Dan, I'm glad to see you're just as unpleasant and thuggish as you were before. I can obviously see why you mentioned Tom Griffin, but not why you said what you said, which remains baffling. Now can I propose you behave yourself?

Dan Hardie

No, Chris. Shorter Dan on the topic of Tom Griffin is 'States must be held to the rule of law, but admirers of organised murder and Gerry Adams groupies don't get to pretend they are impartial human rights advocates.'

At slightly more length, I imagine even a fool who spouts euphemisms about 'non-state groups' when he means organised murderers feels a mild twinge of unease if he hears, for example, valid arguments about the awfulness of many Palestinian acts coming from the mouth of a degraded apologist for torture like Alan Dershowitz.


I broadly agree with my brother in Danhood, Dan on this one, due to having this fucking raging insatiable hard-on for the Geneva Conventions. But with the fairly big caveat that to be non-Irish British is to never have had to really pick sides in any sort of national liberation struggle, and casual empiricism suggests that from my perspective at least, it's very difficult to maintain one's objectivity about what is and isn't legitimate violence in that sort of context, so one perhaps shouldn't be too hard on people who (again, from my perspective) lose sight of the big general principles.


to be non-Irish British is to never have had to really pick sides in any sort of national liberation struggle

Well, not quite: it can mean to have picked sides against said struggles, for instance. And I doubt that British people are particularly free of the tendency to have different standards according to whether it's your side being shot at or your side doing the shooting.

(It's startling, for instance, how many people think it was perfectly legitimate to incinerate tens of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians in 1945. Moreover the people who do so usually mention the barbarity of the Japanese military in this context. This is a form of doublethink which in practice is impossible to debate with.)

Dan Hardie

Shall I mention that my Irish Catholic mother never felt that there was a 'national liberation struggle' going on in Ireland in the years after 1969? Perhaps that was just her 'false consciousness', but what about the two thirds of the Northern Irish Catholic population who voted SDLP at every election throughout the Troubles? Pretty widespread false consciousness, really.

If you have a majority of the oppressed population in a position to vote for the political wing of their 'liberators', and declining to do so, then I can't see that you have a 'national liberation struggle'. If we are serious about war being a last resort, then that has surely to apply to 'wars of national liberation'. I can't see that the last resort had been reached in Northern Ireland when the Provisionals got going, and neither could Marc Mulholland. And, rather pertinently, neither could most of the community the Provisionals claimed to act for.

(Anybody making the ridiculous claim that the SDLP vote was the result of there was gerrymandering, fraud, intimidation or disenfranchisement in Northern Ireland from the 1970s onwards is requested to provide quotations from the relevant secondary literature. The pre-Troubles 'Derrymander' and the property qualification on votes were shameful, but they disappeared under London rule.)

The SDLP were formed from various civil rights groups at the same time that the Provisionals were splitting from the Officials and gearing up for an armed campaign- so it really can't be argued that the Provisionals did what they did because the political route had been given a fair chance.

(Note that this is a normative, not a positive, argument. I don't see that the actions of Stormont or Westminster, or the pre-'69 killings by Gusty Spence's UVF, gave the IRA a compelling moral case for the IRA to kill people in the 1970s, although that's clearly what IRA members themselves felt. The UDA, and the revivified UVF, also felt that the IRA's actions justified their murders, and yet you'd agree that they were entirely wrong.)

You surely don't get exceptions from the rule of law just because bad things have happened to you or to your community. The Stormont state was contemptible, and the attacks on Catholic areas in 1969 were horrific- but if memory serves they killed around a dozen people. The far worse attacks on New York in September 2001 don't justify the torture of terrorist suspects, do they?

Or- if your argument is that only working class Irish Catholics were directly affected by Stormont, and so only they had the right to decide if force was appropriate- does that mean that police officers get the right to use disproportionate force against people who attack them? After all, neither you nor I goes to work in order to has to arrest paedophiles or muggers: why should we dictate to those who do? As soldiers on the battlefield are directly affected by their enemies' violence, do they thereby acquire the right to junk the Geneva Conventions? I think your answer is no, Dsquared.

Dan Hardie

Neither you nor I go to work, not goes. Dear God.

It is interesting that Sinn Fein has gained majority support among NI Catholics since the ceasefires. I do think that they'd lose that support if they sanctioned a full-scale return to IRA violence.

I also think that the question of whether a 'national liberation struggle' is justified hinges on whether there are free institutions open to all affected communities.
On which point, Aznar's partial ban of Herri Batasuna strikes me as indefensible both in principle and in practice.

Chris Williams

Dan H, you have a number of sterling qualities, but you don't half suffer from a damaging delusion that everyone who disagrees with you does so for the same (usually reprehensible) reason. The world is actually more complex, although less viscerally satisfying, than that; the sooner you twig this, the more effective an operator you will become.

Dan Hardie

Eh? That's a patently dumb thing to write on a thread where Dsquared disagrees with me and I, on reflection, admit that he has a point and that I got something wrong.

Chris Williams

No it ain't. If I thought that you were incapable of improvement, I wouldn't bother being polite but would merely take the piss.

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