In British Occupied Ireland concentration camps such as Long Kesh happen every decade or so and on this the 41st anniversary of internment without trial, IT is commemorated with the dying Marian Price, who is but one of many Irish political prisoners still interned without trial in British Occupied Ireland. Marian who was force fed by the British for over six months, was held in solitary confinement for close to a year, is now in intensive care with acute pneumonia. Marian Price's condition is described as “serious” and her family has expressed deep concern about her deteriorating physical and mental health. On Tuesday last ,she was diagnosed with pneumonia and moved to the main hospital.
Forty one years ago hundreds of people were detained without trial in Long Kesh Concentration Camp during the period, which began on 9 Aug 1971. Marian Price was just a teenager then who like a lot of young people, was swept away in the ensuing tide of injustice created by the British army's Occupation of Ireland.
Today 41 years later she is dying, while still interned without trial by an un-elected British vice royal in Ireland. The Guineapigs is the title of a book which first appeared in 1974 in London written by an internee John McGuffin. It sold out on its first print run and was abruptly taken off the market following pressure from the British Government. The book was about fourteen Irish political prisoners on whom the British Army experimented with sensory deprivation torture in 1971.
These 'techniques' although now outlawed, following Britain's conviction at the International Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg, have been exported and used by Britain's allies throughout the world.The techniques were again used on Marian Price while held in solitary confinement last year. Marian was previously force fed and she is now dying from pneumonia and in considerable pain as a direct result of British torture.
In Ireland in 1971 there was deliberate and careful use of modern torture techniques, not merely to get information but to perfect the system of Sensory Deprivation for use against civilians. The author, an ex-internee himself spent two years researching the book following his release from Crumlin Road jail where he had been held without charge or trial. In the newer edition he was able to name the torturers and those responsible. No member of the British Army or the Royal Ulster Constabulary has ever been convicted of torture or brutality to prisoners, although the Government was been forced to pay out over $5 million in compensation to torture victims.
This is an account of the next eight days. It is taken from the victims' own words, in their statements to the Association for Legal Justice and from private interviews. First Joe Clarke, then aged 19, single, motor mechanic: "After being hooded I was led to the helicopter and I was thrown bodily into the helicopter. During this exercise my hands and wrists were hurt due to the others handcuffed to me not being pushed equally. (Before being led off to the helicopter, I understand that one of the hooded men, now known to be F. McGuigan, collapsed when the hood was first applied.) On being put into the copter, the handcuffs were removed and were applied to the back of the hood to tighten it around the head. The helicopter took off and a journey which I would estimate to have taken about an hour began. The helicopter than landed at a destination unknown to me and we were taken from the copter and led into a building and eventually into a room where I was made to stand in a search position against a wall. My position was the same as for other men – fully stretched, hands as far apart as humanly possible and feet as far from the wall as possible. Back rigid and head held up.
Not allowed to relax any of the joints at all. If any relaxation of limbs – arms, elbow joints, legs, knee joints – someone came along and grabbed the limb in a rough manner and put it back into position again. After being against the wall for a few hours. I was taken away and brought, I was told, to a doctor. Sometime during this period I was taken out of this room, put into a helicopter and flown away. I was always handcuffed and hooded. When the 'copter landed I was put into a lorry, driven a short distance, transferred to a jeep, five-minute journey, put into another 'copter, taken for half-hour journey. End of journey put into a police van, driven short distance, five-ten minutes, beaten about the face and body, transferred to other vehicle. Holding my face, asked why, said that I did not want to be beaten again.
Assured that I wouldn't be. Brought into a building, hood removed, shown detention form. Hood replaced, return journey as before The build-up to this collapse was frequent numbing of the hands which when it happened I closed my fist only to find that my hands were beaten against the wall until I opened my fingers again and put my hands back into position. On the other occasion I tried to rest by leaning my head against the wall but the response to this was my head was 'banged' on the wall and shaken about until I resumed my position. All the time there was the constant whirring noise like a helicopter blades going around. From the sound of this noise I would say that it was played into the room where I was because on the occasions that I was taken from this room even outside the door of the room the noise was noticeably vague almost to be inaudible.
As I have said, I collapsed completely after that long period of time. I was brought round and carried out into the main room again and made resume my position as before against the wall. There then followed a series of collapses – I could not say how many times I collapsed. Initially my hands and legs were beaten whenever this happened and the insides of my feet were kicked until my ankles were swollen to almost twice their normal size. After a number of these collapsings I was then made sit on the floor, with my knees up to my chest, my head between my knees and my arms folded around my knees. In this position I was swayed backwards and forwards in order I presume to bring my circulation back. Whenever this was done I was put against the wall again in the original position. The noise was insistent, driving mental resistance to its utmost. I thought that I was going mad. This noise was the only noise one heard save the groans of the other people lined up against the wall.
All the time that I was against this wall I got bread and water once and water alone on two other occasions. This was fed to me by the hood being lifted to my nose and bread and water was fed into my mouth in this way. I should emphasize that I was fed, I did not feed myself. The cup of water was put to my mouth and the bread was put into my mouth. I cannot possibly estimate for what duration I was against this wall and underwent the collapsing experiences and physical torture against this wall, but I would estimate that it must have been at least two full days and nights. During all of the time no sleep was permitted. At the end of the period I must say that I was extremely fatigued both physically and mentally. I was certainly verging on complete mental exhaustion, suffering delusions which were of nightmarish nature. I was taken out of this room – into another room where my hood was removed and I found myself confronted by two plain-clothes RUC SB men, one of whom was standing beside a table and the other was seated behind it. I was told by these men that I had asked to see them. I do not recollect ever having done so. I told them I did not ask for anyone. They then began to interrogate me. These men did not introduce themselves to me, so I do not know who they were. The hood was removed during this entire interview. These men interrogated me for a couple of hours. I should say that at the start of this interview I imagined that I was talking to my brother. At the end of this interview the hood was put back on again and I was put back into the other room and put against the wall. I asked where I was but I was told that I could not be told. As I was against the wall this time I was given a beating: kicked about the legs, a knee was stuck in the base of my spine and the hood was jerked back tight on my face, hurting my neck.
I collapsed at the end of this beating. I was also punched in the ribs and in the stomach, as well as being nipped. I was brought round after collapsing and put up against the wall again. The nipping and punching on the arms and ribs commenced. At that I shouted Fuck off', and punched one of my assailants. I was then grabbed by a number of people and I was punched, kicked and kneed all over the body, stomach, ribs and back of my head. The hood was pulled tightly around my neck, nearly suffocating me. I was then put back against the wall. After a short time against it I collapsed. I do not know for how long I was out. The next thing that I clearly remember was sitting in this small room with the same two men as before, who again told me that I sent for them. The hood was taken off for this interview as well. This interview lasted only a very short time, a matter of minutes. I was re-hooded and taken out again into another room where I was beaten continuously for a long number of hours.
During the beating I was asked questions concerning the IRA, naming various people, and they also asked me about arms dumps. During all of this time I was standing. Due to the beating – mostly about the body and head, not face – I fell unconscious. When I awakened I was lying on a floor and as I was waking I was being punched. During this period of unconsciousness I had a dream where a friend of mine – my fiancee's brother – bought a scrap-yard. Whenever I awoke and found myself being beaten I began to struggle – I kicked one person and punched another. I was then overcome – my hands were put behind my back and I was handcuffed in this position.
There was an attempt to handcuff my ankles. I was then carried down a flight of stairs into a further interrogation – by a different person than previously. The hood was taken off. He told me that I had sent for him. I said that I did not but that I had asked for a priest. He told me that I would get no priest there. After a few questions I was re-hooded and led outside and into another room where I was made, hands still handcuffed behind my back, stand facing a wall with the crown of my head leaning against the wall. As I stood there my arms were pulled further back causing my wrists to be cut and torn. I was left alone in this room un-hooded for a few hours. This same SB Branch man came back in but was very gentle in the course of questioning. He would have questioned me for two to three hours. He then left me again alone in the room – this time for about six hours.
He returned when it was morning and told me that I was going back in for a few hours. I asked him where and he said, 'to the jail'. He brought me into a washroom and helped me to shave and have a general clean-up. I was then brought to a doctor. I complained to him of dizziness and pain in my right knee. He bandaged it and gave me an examination. Then I was photographed in the nude both front and rear. I was given my clothes back when I got back to the room. I changed and, after about an hour, I was brought now re-hooded to a Land-Rover and then after a short journey of five to ten minutes was put into a 'copter. After about an hour's flying journey we landed. Taken out. I know now that I was landed at the back of the prison (Girdwood). Marched through a hole in a wall. Across a football pitch and then put into a jeep. Driven to a gate – transferred into another police jeep and driven to the prison reception. I asked in the prison reception, where I was weighed etc., what day it was and he told me Tuesday. I said that it couldn't be since I was in Girdwood on Tuesday but he told me that that was a week ago.
After going through the formalities of reception I was put into a cell in the basement where I was kept until the following morning when I was transferred to C wing amongst the other detainees. Whilst in the basement I was given a meal – the first substantial food I received in over a week."
It is worth noting that of the twelve men only Clarke physically resisted. After days of ill-treatment and goaded beyond control, he reacted with an attempt, albeit futile, to strike out at his captors and tormentors. Dr. Pearse O'Malley of the Mater Hospital, Belfast, who examined two of the 'guineapigs' while they were recovering in Crumlin jail from their ordeal, has explained how during the intensive sensory deprivation, as the disorientation is prolonged, aggression is likely to manifest itself. In the case of Joe Clarke this took the form of trying to retaliate, but in the case of at least two other men the agression became inverted and they even attempted suicide, by throwing themselves head first at the water-pipes.