A British Army spokesman admitted in Belfast yesterday that there were arms in Protestant areas, both in the city and throughout Northern Ireland, but he couldn’t explain why arms searches had not been conducted recently in these areas. Brigadier Marston Tickell, of the General Staff, was speaking at a press briefing at Tyrone House in Belfast. Questioned about the circumstances of Bernard Watt’s death on the Crumlin Road on Friday night, he was at a loss to explain the conflicting accounts made by army spokesmen of the circumstances of the killing. However, he was certain that despite practically the unanimous opinion in the Ardoyne area to the contrary, Watt was either throwing a petrol bomb, a gelignite bomb or firing a gun.
DeniedOn the death of Jim Saunders in Louisa St., on Friday night, the Brigadier categorically denied that there was any possibility that he was shot by Protestant gunmen and said that the Army had no information at all of shooting from a Protestant street in that area around that time. Brig. Tickell said: ‘The I.R.A. is having increasing difficulty in getting mobs on to the street, and it was obviously hoping that by increased activity it would get soldiers to respond indiscriminately so that innocent people would be hurt.” He added this of course would turn people against the Army, ‘but he believed that the silent majority in Catholic areas was on the side of the army. He said that there was no change of Army tactics, that it had always been the policy to use minimum force: “But if soldiers are attacked with lethal weapons, we will respond in kind but with deliberate aim and not with indiscriminate shooting.” Referring to IRI [sic] claims that its action was purely of a defensive nature, he inquired: “Why are they throwing lethal weapons on main roads at civilian vehicles and civilian property and why are they firing first, when in some cases no specific military action had been taken?”
Speaking about “the new weapon” which Lord Carrington, the British Defence Secretary, had referred to in a recent visit to Northern Ireland, Brig. Tickell said that the Army was constantly developing new weapons for riot control and over the last 18 months, these had been given a very high priority. “There are a number of possible new developments or refinements of new techniques in the pipeline, but we do not expect that any single weapon will solve the problem of riot control.” He said that he was entirely Ignorant of any inter-I.RA. feud or of any involvement of extreme Protestant organisations in the recent troubles. Furthermore, he was entirely at a loss to explain the Army report of the Dungannon incident on Saturday nigh, which stated that two U.D.R. rifles had been discharged accidentally when a scuffle broke out between U.D.R. men and the crowd. He agreed that this was impossible as U.D.R. rifles are not normally or should not be loaded. However, he said that all the evidence of the U.D.R. activity of Saturday night could not tarnish the non-sectarian image of that organisation.
A FiascoThe press briefing was from the Army’s point of view a fiasco. Time and again, reporters broke into loud guffaws as the Brigadier made totally incredible answers to many of the [this section ends abruptly in the original newspaper report].He revealed the British Army’s ignorance of the complexities of the IRA set-up and the possibility of extremist Protestant intervention in the recent troubles. His failure to explain conflicting Army reports of recent incidents further added to the air of incredulity in which the meeting took place. He claimed privilege when closely questioned on the circumstances of the death of Bernard Watt — he said that the matter was sub-judice. But he was prepared to be quite specific about the details of Jim Saunders’ death, which he later conceded was also sub-judice.When queried on his sources of information and the degree of popular support for “the IRA subversive”, he remained mute, and then agreed that perhaps, the reason that there were smaller crowds on the streets was due more to fear of the Army than to support of them.
And then, from Aidan Hennigan in London:
Children in North Riots, Lurid British Papers
Whether lurid headlines in many British dailies yesterday alleging deliberate involvement of children in the Northern Ireland riots are sensational for sensation’s sake or whether they were deliberately inspired by judicious army briefing or teach-ins is a question which must exercise the mind at the moment. In the British House of Commons yesterday, Mr. Robin Chichester-Clark (Unionist, Derry), brother of the Stormont Premier, said: “Groups of I.R.A. men are now known to be paying sums between 15s. and £3 to small children to go out and pelt soldiers with missiles and shelter behind them in doorways, even with automatic weapons.” The suggestion was denied, however, by Mr. Ian Gilmour, Defence Under-Secretary, Army, who said: “I am not aware of any economic connection between the I.R.A. and small children. Small children have been involved in disturbances over the last few days. “We are well aware there are extremists fomenting these disturbances.”New Approach
Virtually every British newspaper carried stories about the children yesterday. “Children of hate”, is how the Daily Mail described them. The Daily Mirror carried the banner headline on its front page: “Horror of the child terrorists”, while its newest rival, the Sun, also headlined the story: “Front-line kids”. What may not be at Issue is that children have been arrested and have been found in the riot areas but it is a different matter obviously to say that, and I quote the Sun newspaper: ” I.R.A. terror leaders in Belfast are sending new shock troops to war—their own children”, is quite another matter.These reports, apparently emanating from police sources in Belfast, are to be taken in conjunction with what is positively a new approach to the whole Northern Ireland situation by the British press.
Changed pictureOnly a year ago these same papers were pointing to the root cause of the disturbance, notably the need for reforms, and justifying the demonstrations by civil rights’ members and the Catholic minority. Today the picture is changed and the lean is on the Catholics. Equally one has to take into consideration the changed climate of opinion in the British Government, who are now taking a much harder line, or to put it more succinctly, who are being pressurised in to taking a harder line. With a relatively small majority in the House of Commons, the traditional support which the Unionists afford the Conservative Party becomes extremely important, especially as the Government is now very bard-pressed on its industrial policies. More recently there has been a certain restiveness among these very Unionists about the way the Government are handling the Northern Ireland situation. It was being made plain that Mr. Heath and his colleagues, especially Mr. Maudling and Lord Carrington, were playing too passive a role in Northern Ireland. The implication was that the British troops were not active enough in searching out what has been described as “extremists”. It was notable that the “extremists” in this case were meant to be on the Catholic side. Certainly the tougher measures now being taken by the British troops must be symptomatic of this hardening political climate. Obviously the last thing Mr. Heath and his colleagues want at the moment Is the downfall of Major Chichester-Clark. It would be only a short step, it is argued, until the British Government were forced to introduce direct rule.
ImplicationThe implication of such a decision with its direct responsibility is all too clear to the Tories. The line the papers are taking about the involvement of children is understandable in Fleet Street terms. It is intended to make gripping reading but, for any Government who might wish to justify tough action by its troops and justify its own political decision, the same headlines might be seen as a Godsend.
And finally, the report from the Scarman Tribunal:
Ex-Special says evidence was not fixed
A member of the former Tynan platoon of the B Specials denied at the Scarman Tribunal in Armagh yesterday that the evidence given by platoon members about shooting at Cathedral Road on August 14, 1969—when John Gallagher, 31-year-old father of three was shot dead—was “an agreed version.” Mr. Justice Scarman told Special Constable Joseph Gray “you can take it from me that every member of the platoon to give evidence to the tribunal so far has told us that he fired into the air. Was that an agreed version? “Witness—Not to my knowledge.” Mr. Justice Scarman put it to Mr. Gray that it might have been a B Special bullet which struck Gallagher? But witness replied: “I couldn’t say.” Further questioned, Mr. Gray said that he couldn’t say who shot Gallagher. He admitted that he had never been trained to fire a rifle into the air.
He told Mr. Turlough O’Donnell, Q.C., for Gallagher’s next of kin, that he had been issued with two rounds of ammunition to replace the two he had fired at a drill session about a fortnight later. “The instructor asked every man what replacements he required to make up for what had been fired in Armagh,” witness added. A former Co. Armagh adjutant in the Ulster Special Constabulary told the tribunal that no police officer had ever approached him or asked to see documents relating to the Tynan platoon, and, that at no time did anyone suggest to him that these documents should be retained for an enquiry. Mr. James Moore, an ex-Instructor in the Irish Guards, said that with the disbandment of the U.S.C., instructions had been issued from headquarters that all documents except those which had historic value should be destroyed. Mr. Moore said that no specific instructions were given with regard to personal property cards. He did not know what happened to them but heard they had been destroyed.