Ardoyne Assault & Battery

Throughout the course of the Northern conflict Ardoyne was a reluctant host community to serious acts of political violence. It was so rich in source material that one of the outstanding early academic works providing serious insight into the mindset of the IRA and the relationship between it and the community centred on ‘the district’ as its inhabitants fondly term it. Frank Burton for some now incomprehensible reason called Ardoyne ‘Anro’ in his book The Politics of Legitimacy.

The political violence that afflicted Ardoyne, and which is often documented on the ‘Ardoyne Republican’ blog, was a violence of the streets. People with a fair measure of justification often claimed that some violent act happened right on their front door.

But behind some of those front doors a different type of violence occurred; a violence that was at the same time terrifying and concealed. Occasionally the twitch of a curtain or a muffled scream revealed its existence but more often than not it was conducted out of both sight and earshot of the public.

These days it is hard enough to get the Sunday Tribune. Shop after shop informs its customers ‘all gone’. One friend told us they tried three newsagents only to be told the same thing in each. The early bird gets the worm. Last Sunday I wormed my way out of bed just early enough to get a copy, having learned my lesson from the week before where the usual outlet had run out of copies. I am not quite sure I am happy about my successful acquisition. It is not possible for me to read what Martin Og Meehan has called the ‘great investigative journalism from Suzanne Breen ...’ and put the paper down satisfied at a good read. Breen’s story on the horrific abuse of an Ardoyne child is anything but a good read; it is simply horrifying.

The article is well written; in fact too well written. It places the reader in the position where they can almost smell the fear of a tortured child and sense its terror as the abuser returns for another round. Suzanne Breen’s brilliance as a journalist is that she does not bring the story to you but brings you to it; mentally places you at the scene of the crime; leaves you feeling that you want to shower after visiting the chamber of horrors so that you can be cleansed of the terrible knowledge that has seeped into the pores of your mind. For me the horror is accentuated due to the long standing friendship and comradeship I shared with the survivor’s father, one of the true republican greats, the late Martin Meehan. The only sense of relief I could draw from it all was that Martin died before he ever found out, rather than dying much earlier from finding out. How could he have survived the following account of what his daughter was forced to endure at the hands of her abuser who she referred to as X?
I was so scared that I wet the bed. X wouldn't let me change the sheets. I had to sleep in the ones soaked with my own urine. The mattress became infested with maggots. The smell from the bucket, and the bed, was overpowering. It made me throw up ... When I cried or screamed to get out of that room, X clasped my mouth shut. Then, X beat me with their hand and a belt [and] made me drink my own urine. This happened many times ... If I didn't finish my dinner, X left it there for days and I wasn't allowed to eat anything until I ate that food. Once, X filled the bath and held my head under the water until I passed out. Another time X cut off all my hair with a razor blade ... Sometimes, I cried so hard during a beating that I could hardly breathe. X monitored my every move. When X sent me to the shops, X timed me. If I was back one minute late, X beat me. X made me come into the living room at night when everyone else was in bed. X lay on the sofa naked and drunk. I was forced to touch X sexually. "X threatened to kill me if I didn't. X said if I was killed nobody would miss me because nobody cared about me. When I refused to touch X sexually, I was beaten until I did. X sexually violated me, using wine bottles ... I didn't tell anyone X was responsible for my injuries because I was terrified of X. I was a child of 10 living in total fear.

And on it goes. A story of sordid sadism inflicted on a ten year old girl.

There is too much independent evidence supporting the claims of abuse to allow any other interpretation of what this child went through. She was tormented and tortured, bullied and battered, neglected and humiliated, denied love and told no one would care because no one loved her.

There should be a special type of offence created for certain crimes against children. It should not be used for every wrong that happens to a child. That would devalue its purpose and give it a mundane feel that would fail to allow it to register in our minds when we hear of it. Too liberally applied it would not stop us in our tracks and jolt us out of our complacency. It should be used only against a particular type of person, which would not include the standard but loathsome paedophile, the school or playground bully, the parent or sibling who lashes out in anger. Crimes against Children should resonate in the public mind and create the same sense of revulsion as Crimes against Humanity. It would apply to those who tortured and murdered Baby Peter in London; it should also be used against the monster who made this Ardoyne child’s life a hell on earth, the only place there is a hell – and like heaven, all man made.

Crimes against Children – no forgiveness, no forgetfulness. Chase those culpable to the ends of the earth.


  1. my fork-n-knife has always had the answer to these bastards,chuck them in a room full of mothers

  2. RE 'Crimes against Children – no forgiveness, no forgetfulness. Chase those culpable to the ends of the earth.' Yes comforting words... 'Ireland the Necrotic Nation' Anthony. Recidivist evil sly are child abusers. They are masters at deceit/convoluted reasoning/terror. Terrorists in Ireland? ='s child abusers

  3. Anr├│='hardship' in Irish. Not sure what Frank Burton meant either when trying to cloak Ardoyne as such, but sadly, an appropriate signifier for such sordid, awful transgressions. I hope Bernadette McAliskey's challenge to rally around this issue gains some traction and takes off. Any word on reactions to her call?

  4. Must say chara, a heartfelt and positive article that helps readers understand why a child was forced to endure unspeakable acts of cruelty...

  5. Are you now so twisted in your hatred of the Republican Movement to align yourself with Mairtin Og in living in the other-world to believe that Martin Snr did not know of the abuse? Protests outside the home of Martin Snrs widow of "100 decent people" of Ardoyne and Martin Snr did not get to hear about it even in the Blocks?? The child went to live with her grandmother and Martin did not question this?? In fact he came out of jail and built a life with Briege regardless of the claims his children had made against her, obviously dismissive of them. But then, that was when you were a member of that very Movement. All very well to sit on your shaky pedestal now

  6. Seamus, getting to you is it?

  7. Anthony. I have to say I agree with many points Seamus has made. While having every respect for Martin snr and his role in the army I asked myself the very same questions Seamus has posed and the answers I got were disappointing to say the least.

    It was common knowledge at the time that local women had picketed this house, horrified at the abuse the children were suffering. Years later when Martin snr's widow was put up for election the issue of the abuse was raised by many in 'the party', fearful perhaps, not that these children would be traumatised further, but that this would come
    back to haunt SF.

    How any parent can disregard the abuse of their child is beyond me

  8. Handbags&heelsproject, there is no doubt that the question raised is valid. After I had written the piece on the incident I came across the claim on the Ardoyne Republican blog that a hundred people had protested outside the house. It was news to me. We knew in prison that Martin snr had family difficulties. He left the blanket protest from our wing in H4 as a result of them. I referred to this in an obituary I wrote shortly after his death. The claim about the protest was news to me. I spent quite some time with Martin snr in the jail and with a lot of the Ardoyne men. It is not the type of thing I would be likely to forget if it was mentioned. And I do recall quite a bit of the tittle-tattle from Ardoyne. The claim struck me as strange for two reasons: the first was that it seemed incredible that Martin snr could not have known about the allegations. How do you hide a protest? Secondly, how did SF and its leader not know about them? In any event it raises many questions for me, in particular my expressed view that the father was unaware of it.

  9. Mackers I've just logged on again after a break..must say the first thing I saw was Seamus' questions..I was wondering about this myself this last while...I have a great respect for Martin Meehan and have no wish to get involved in this personal business but it does seem to be impossible he couldn't have known. I always found him of good hert and very approachable.
    I'm confused.