The Hooded Men – Magilligan and Ballykinler
Pat Shivers, Paddy Joe McClean, Mickey Donnelly and Mickey Montgomery were taken to Magilligan Weekend Training Center, a British Army garrison camp in Limavady, Co. Derry.
Pat Shivers was a 40-year-old plasterer when he was arrested at his home in Toomebridge, Co. Antrim, at 4:55 a.m. on 9 August 1971. Married to Mary Elizabeth, who was epileptic, he had five children, including a 10-week-old son who was born seven weeks premature. Born in Scotland, he was a nervous man who had been interned from 1958-59 during the IRA Border Campaign. He had since become active with the local Civil Rights Association. The Special Branch men in Toome were well aware that Shivers was not a member of the IRA; upon his release he was told that the local police had no idea why he was arrested. Originally taken to Ballykelly, where he was interrogated by a man behind a blanket (so as not to be identified), Shivers was brought to Magilligan as part of a larger group. He was assigned to a Nissen hut, and then brought to a dining room to eat. Following dinner, Shivers was interrogated regarding his connection to the IRA and knowledge about arms dumps.
Paddy Joe McClean, a civil rights activist from Beragh, Co. Tyrone, grew up the oldest of eight children raised on their parents’ farm. He joined Fianna Uladh, a legal but militant political organization, whose secret military wing was Saor Uladh. McClean was also interned during the Border Campaign of the 1950s, serving four years without ever being charged. Upon his release, he become one of the founders of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. On 9 August, 1971, McClean was a 38-year-old married father of seven, working as a remedial school teacher. At the time of his second detention, his wife was scheduled to go into the hospital to deliver their eighth child; in preparation, his other children were staying with various friends. McClean had been up a good part of the night with his mother-in-law, who was quite ill and died hours after he was detained. Following his arrest, McClean was taken directly to Magilligan, where he was kept in a van for several hours and questioned by a member of the Special Branch of the RUC, after which he, too, was assigned to a hut.
Mickey Donnelly was a 23-year-old bricklayer living in Derry City with his wife and 1-year-old child. He was home in bed on 9 August 1971, when he woke to find himself surrounded by six soldiers, one with a gun pointed to Donnelly’s head. Given less than a minute to dress, Donnelly grabbed a sports jacket while his wife asked where he was being taken; the soldiers responded with obscenities. He was transported by Land Rover to a depot on Strand Road and transferred to a British Army lorry, where he was piled in with a group of other men, kicked and called names such as “Irish Bastard.” At Ebrington Barracks, Donnelly was dragged from the lorry and lined up with other detainees; he saw soldiers abusing and kicking some of the men, but was not mistreated himself. After standing in line for a half-hour, he was brought inside a hut, his information was taken, and he was sent to a large gym where no one was permitted to speak. From there, Donnelly and some of the others were placed in a furniture van and transported to Magilligan. Like Shivers and McClean, Donnelly was placed in a hut.
Mickey Montgomery was a 37-year-old member of the Official IRA when he was arrested on 9 August 1971. Married with five children, Montgomery was in bed when troops burst into his bedroom. Wearing only his underpants, Montgomery was taken to Ebrington Barracks, where he asked a Special Branch man he knew why he was being arrested. Montgomery was told it was at the direction of the military.
At Magilligan, the men were permitted to speak to one another, but they were not allowed to use the toilet. The larger group, which numbered 30, was divided into separate huts; Shivers, McClean, Donnelly and Montgomery were assigned to the same hut but taken out separately for interrogation. Montgomery was issued a jacket and pair of shoes. Donnelly was told by members of the RUC: “There were a lot of you IRA bastards shot in Belfast last night.” Shivers was exceptionally nervous; McClean tried to calm him down until they were instructed to go to sleep. Lights remained on in the huts, which were surrounded by soldiers, police and Alsatian dogs. Around midnight the guards began running their batons along the sides of the huts to keep the detainees awake, inspiring terror among them. A Scottish soldier was heard shouting: “If I can’t sleep you bastards won’t sleep.”
At daybreak, the men were taken to the canteen, where they were given beans, sausage and bread before being returned to their hut, where the four were hooded. Shivers immediately began complaining of a shortness of breath. They were all handcuffed and run across a field to a waiting helicopter, made to believe they were flying to England. After landing, the men were thrown into a waiting lorry, driven for about 100 yards and taken into a building. During their transport, they were kicked and punched, including in the genitals.
Packi McNally was arrested at his home in Armagh, where he was active in the civil rights movement. Married with three children, McNally was 24 when he was taken to Gough Barracks; his photograph was taken and he was transported to Ballykinler Weekend Training Center in Co. Down by lorry.
Brian Turley was also from Armagh, where he was detained at his home at 5:00 a.m. before being taken to Gough Barracks, photographed and transported to Ballykinler.
Gerry McKerr, 27, lived in Lurgan with his wife and three children when he was arrested at his home at 4:30 a.m.; troops entered through the front door after breaking a side window. McKerr was allowed to dress, taken to a local British Army branch in Lurgan, where he was photographed, handcuffed and transported to Ballykinler. There, he was placed in a hut with McNally, Turley and Sean McKenna, a 42-year-old from Newry.
McKenna, the oldest of the Hooded Men, had been arrested, along with his son, Sean, at his home and taken to the Ulster Defence Regiment Center in Newry, where he was searched and photographed before being transported to Ashgrove School and finally Ballykinler. Unlike the others, McKenna reported being beaten, kicked and repeatedly hit in the head during his transfer. He was cursed at and called a Fenian bastard by soldiers along the way. Upon reaching Ballykinler, McKenna was grabbed by a soldier who ran him at great speed head-first into a concrete post, while other soldiers watching laughed.
The detainees at Ballykinler were treated far worse than those at the other camps. Here, the men were put into huts where they were forced to sit with their feet against the wall and hands behind their heads, looking up at the ceiling before being taken for a medical exam. Soldiers forced them to exercise continuously through the night. The exercises were repeated the following day as men were removed from the hut until only McNally, Turley, McKerr and McKenna remained. After McKerr protested that there were “regulations regarding the treatment of prisoners,” the four were given mattresses and blankets, but were required to use them as part of a game of leapfrog throughout the second night. At other times, they were forced to run between two huts and then urinate in a hole in the ground while soldiers and police watched, laughing.
The prisoners were permitted small amounts of sleep before being awakened by the guards and forced to exercise again. Each time they lay down, they were required to say “Good night, sir” or “Good night, Sergeant.” Early on the morning of 11 August, the men were hooded and handcuffed, bundled into a truck where they were kicked and beaten, and brought to a helicopter. After a flight of 30-60 minutes, they were pulled out of the helicopter, roughed up and put into another vehicle, which brought them to Ballykelly. Although exhausted and disoriented, McKerr recalled he was, “extremely grateful for the seat.”