Torture, 1971

This report on Torture: The Record of British Brutality in Ireland details the experiences of those tortured by British Army personnel and RUC personnel and was published in 1971. The report was published by Northern Aid in co-operation with The Association for Legal Justice. Northern Aid was an organisation founded to raise funds for the relief of distress in the north. It’s board included Frank MacManus MP and Paddy Kennedy MP and Frank Gogarty from the NICRA. The Association for Legal Justice had been launched on 25th April 1971 in Belfast including the likes of Christopher Napier, Rita Mullan, Sean McCann and Frances Murray. Within a week of the mass arrests on 9th August 1971, the Association for Legal Justice had already raised allegations about the brutal ill-treatment of the detainées by the security forces.

Over the next few days, both the Association for Legal Justice and the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association publicised accounts of the torture, with up to thirty separate instances being documented by the 17th August. Within a few days, the British government announced that an inquiry would take place. The inquiry produced the Compton Report (named after the chair, Sir Edmund Compton, G.C.B., K.B.E.). The inquiry report was published on 16th November 1971 and was widely derided as an exercise in semantics and a whitewash amid calls for an independent international inquiry. On 30th November, in Dublin, the government announced it would take a case against the British government in the European Court of Human Rights (the case is still not closed).

Following its publication, the statements that had been assembled by the Association for Legal Justice were brought together and published as Torture: The Record of British Brutality in Ireland. It was printed by The Record Press Limited in Bray and launched at a press conference in Dublin on 14th December 1971. To put the publication in context, this was only ten days after the bombing of McGurks Bar in Belfast and six weeks before Bloody Sunday.


Those whose experiences are recounted are James Magilton, Thomas Largey, James Lynch, Liam Rogers, Liam Shannon, Sean Drumm, Edward Campbell, Brendan Harrison, James Auld, Kevin Hannaway, Thomas Sinclair, TJ Conlon, Brian Turley, Sean McKenna, Gerrard McKerr, Henry Bennett, MJ Donnelly, Michael Harvey, Joe Clarke, Patrick Shivers, Elisha Anderson and Anthony Maxwell. It also gives account from those thrown from helicopters (including some of the above and Frank McGuigan, Michael Montgomery and Patrick McNally). There are also accounts of the ill-treatment of prisoners in Long Kesh, including Bill Denvir, J. McMahon, Tex Duggan, Laurence McCay, F. Maynes, J.J. Davey, P.R. Mallon, Pat Mulvenna, Liam Mulholland, Pat O’Hagan, Benny Doonan, Frank McGlade and Phil McCullough.

The report also reprinted photos of the Maguire sisters which proved that official claims that they had been dressed as men when shot dead were untrue. The sisters (Maura Meehan and Dorothy Maguire) had been shot dead by British soldiers in a car on Cape Street on 23rd October 1971. Both IRA volunteers, they were unarmed when shot. The photographs had been printed in some newspapers in the days after they had been killed.

Finally, it should be noted that this report merely documents examples of torture up to November 1971. This is merely a prelude to the subsequent development and application of a variety of torture techniques by the security forces over the next decades.

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