There is nothing in the Good Friday Agreement which declares that convicted terrorists should shut up for good and complain about nothing for the rest of their lives; but nor is there anything in the agreement which commands the convenient amnesia which former paramilitary leaders desperately yearn for. Amnesia has been one of the great enabling factors in the cycle of troubles over the years.
Amnesia liberates from consequence, conferring innocence on the guilty, and banishing the slaughtered dead to a permanent exile from popular memory. So it is not spiteful or revanchist to remember. It is morally necessary. It is the guard against a fresh infestation of violence. So it is not in the least in a spirit of vindictiveness that I refer to the letter from Danny Morrison, former Sinn Féin publicity chief and a convicted terrorist, published last Monday, complaining about the appalling travails he recently had had to endure trying to get breakfast on the Enterprise express to Dublin, the poor lamb.
I must say: I admire his nerve. I really do. Perhaps next, a letter from Paul Kefa Mukonyi complaining about the rough treatment he received on a British Airways flight to Nairobi?
Ten years ago, Danny Morrison was found guilty of being an accomplice in the kidnap and interrogation of a police informer, Sandy Lynch, who had been held and interrogated by the IRA for two days in 124 Carrigart Avenue, Belfast. The court was told about the fate of a previous such captive at that address, Joseph Fenton, a father of four, whose treatment, in every detail except the final outcome, was identical to that of Sandy Lynch. Joseph Fenton was bound and blindfolded, just as Sandy Lynch was. He was deprived of food, just as Sandy Lynch was, and indeed, as poor Danny Morrison was the other day on the train from Belfast (though only for a while, you'll rejoice to hear), he finally got a fry in a soda farl. Both men were forced to make tape-recorded confessions of guilt. Both were compelled to record pleas for mercy. Both were told that judgment on their future would be made by men not then present in 124 Carrigart Avenue. The confessions recorded, the tapes were taken away for judgement.
In the case of Sandy Lynch, some time later Danny Morrison arrived at the house and was arrested in a police raid. The trial judge ruled that Morrison knew that Sandy Lynch was being held captive and was a supporter of IRA terrorism.
Sandy Lynch told the court he was convinced that he was about to be murdered. Others would agree. He was, however, freed before any further harm befell him. No liberation No such liberation awaited Joseph Fenton. Whoever arrived at that house with news of Joseph Fenton's fate was able to ensure sentence was carried out, without interference from the RUC. His body was found with gunshot wounds to the head in Bunbeg Park, Lenadoon.
Sinn Féin played a copy of his taped "confession", including the futile plea for mercy, to his father Patrick. Perhaps we may believe the assertion that it was Joseph Fenton who had earlier fingered a married couple, Catherine and Gerard Mahon, as RUC informers, in order to deflect suspicion away from himself; perhaps we may also believe the allegation that Fenton did this on the instructions of his RUC handlers. I don't know the truth about these assertions. But I do know Catherine and Gerard Mahon were captured by the IRA and taken to Turf Lodge and interrogated there. Were they deprived of food there, as Sandy Lynch was, as Joseph Fenton had been, and as poor Danny Morrison was to be, on the Dublin train before Christmas? I don't know that either. But I do know, regardless of who brought the news of their fate in whatever house they were being held, that the end which awaited the Mahons was the same as that which was to await Joseph Fenton. Both were shot dead.
Six years later, Gerard's brother Colm was shot dead by a man he had barred from a pub he managed. It was an apolitical act of mindless thuggery. The killer, Crip McWilliams, joined the INLA while in jail. Three years ago, he shot dead the LVF leader Billy Wright in the Maze. McWilliams is now free, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, but the daughter of Colm Mahon is not: "Since his death, I have felt alone and empty," she told a rally four years ago. "One of the most important people in my life was gone. One wish I have is that no more people suffer the way my family and other families have suffered." There is suffering and there is suffering.
There are myriads of relatives of the dead who must try to make sense of the emotional calamity of bereavement and the suffering inflicted by those who have enjoyed early release from the Maze; and there is the suffering of poor Danny Morrison, unable to get his breakfast just when he wants it on the train to Dublin. Now Danny, I don't know what you've got on your conscience and what you have not. All I'm sure of is that I'm glad it's your conscience and not mine.
|Danny Morrison Irish Times Thur Jan 4 2001