Where Conjecture Replaces Evidence

Guest writer, former blanketman Gerard Hodgins with his thoughts on the trial of Seamus Kearney. The South Derry republican was yesterday convicted after a farcical trial for killing a RUC combatant, John Proctor  during the North's violent political conflict. The evidence against him basically amounted to him not looking as if he might be innocent.

Seamus Kearney at 56 years of age is selectively punished by the British State for being an uncompromising republican. He is convicted on “bad character” evidence which allows a Diplock judge to adduce guilt for a shooting in 1981 based on Seamus being charged with shooting at a UDR patrol in 1984.


He is also convicted on circumstantial evidence: a cigarette butt in a public carpark! If ever I sat through a stitch-up trial this surely was it. Conjecture replaces evidence as the standard for assessing guilt.

Gerry McGeough faced a similar vindictive experience and no doubt many more republicans will find ourselves on the wrong side of a prison cell for not sucking up to the British truncheon. Martin Corey has been interned for the past three years and hardly a word of concern is raised by those politicians who
would claim to be republican and for social justice.

There is absolutely no doubt to the guilt of Derek Wilford O.B.E. and his 'courageous' paratroopers who slaughtered 14 innocents in Derry. Nor is there any doubt to the guilt of the paratroopers who carried out the massacre in Ballymurphy.

There is no doubt to the guilt of the Glenane Gang which slaughtered Catholics with impunity throughout the Murder Triangle and carried out the Dublin-Monaghan bombings (the biggest act of mass murder in our troubled recent past), and there is no doubt to the guilt of RUC Special Branch and the British Army’s Force Research Unit which actively colluded with Loyalist death squads targetting and killing innocent Catholics.

When will we see these British/Loyalist mass-murderers face the same rigor of the law as elderly, geriatric republicans?

Don’t hold your breath. The justice system here is still a Britsh travesty of justice designed to punish the Irish and grant immunity from murder and terror to the British forces and their loyalist allies.


  1. I sat through the trial with Gerard and a few others for the best part of a week. The only evidence presented by the state was a DNA profile of Seamus Kearney on one of two cigarette ends found at the location where the shooting took place. This location was a public car park in a public hospital. There was no other supporting evidence at all. The prosecutor made known his intention to make an application to have 'bad character' admitted in order to support the charge which the judge duly accepted. The substance of 'bad character' is that a previous conviction for offenses of a similar nature can be used to show a propensity towards violence. Therefore, because Mr Kearney had been convicted of 'attempted murder' by means of a gun attack on a UDR patrol previously this, it was argued, demonstrated a pattern of behavior consistent with the current offense. During the application the prosecutor admitted in open court that without 'bad character' the case against Kearney was weak. I ask you!

    Further added to this was an inference drawn from his failure to give a innocent explanation for his DNA being present at the scene. More than twenty years had passed before he was arrested and questioned about the incident. In such circumstances he chose to invoke his right to silence. This conviction was politically motivated.

  2. A public carpark as you say this but could have been carried on the sole of somebodys boot ffs .BUTT hes a repuplican hel do rightly.see yer man from SF milne giving it a mention,maybe hel bring him to the REX bar for a pint when he gets out.

  3. Don't know if he will appeal or not-[ he has good grounds ]-but it
    said in court that the cigarette
    evidence was tampered with after the Provo's blew up the brit Forensics lab in Belvoir [ along with half a loyalist estate ]-in
    1992-the surviving evidence including those cigarette's were removed to a new facility-but the
    RUC placed them with other items
    in plastic bags-thus that evidence
    is tampered evidence-

  4. Good piece Gerard.

    One thing that struck me as strange on this bad character thing is that the 'bad character' is supposedly established by something that happened in 1982. How then can be it be evidence of something that happened prior to the 'proven' existence of 'bad character?'?

    Billy Brooks,

    Milne is his brother in law

    The case is a farce and the judge is like a throwback to one of those beaks that sat on the supergrass trials and made idiots out of themselves as they found political reason to convict everybody and then legal reason to overturn each other's convictions. The judge is a scandal and I hope John Larkin prosecutes me for scandalising a judge.

    Fuck the judge.

  5. Yer woman travers is never off the tv saying how decent her da was.[remanding people in custody year in year out]nothings changed by the looks of it.as for milne was he not the 1 in the lenny murphy lounge pulling pints.

  6. Billy Brooks,
    A public carpark as you say this but could have been carried on the sole of somebodys boot ffs

    In such circumstances he chose to invoke his right to silence.

    How then can be it be evidence of something that happened prior to the 'proven' existence of 'bad character?'?

    Beano Niblock posed the same type of question's and was using the same type of arguments in your article about the death of Eileen Doherty

    There are similarities on Rodgers case and those of both Shivers and Duffy. However in the case of Rodgers the judge-who was presiding over his first major case-summed up by citing three reasons for finding him guilty-the first two-he allowed "bad character" to be introduced-because of a previous life sentence-and secondly, Rodgers refusal to say anything when arrested. The fingerprint evidence was circumstantial to say the least and could have been made at anytime

    This conviction was politically motivated

    Which one Alec? The Bobby Roger case or the Seamus Kearney case? There is very little seperating both (in nearly all respects).

  7. Gerard
    First of all I have a bone to pick with you! For fuck's sake don't refer to some one who is 56 geriatric! Other than that, a brilliant piece.

    Yes, I remember those "supergrass" "trials" in particular, they were a fucking joke. (A joke that's not funny). As in all Diplock cases, the judge had to remind "himself" not to be influenced by tv, newspaper or radio reports about the people in front of him! As we say in Belfast: "Aye Right"! A fucking disgrace!

  8. Watching the British deal with the Irish in the 21st century is like watching white Americans deal with black Americans in the 19th century deep south. England is truly a noxious nation.

  9. Seamus was level headed. He knew exactly what type of verdict that excuse for a court of justice might deliver. During the trial I headed off on the drink with him and we talked about the way it could pan out.

    Why was there no consideration given to the history of bad character of juryless Diplock Courts, where it is plain they were introduced not to protect juries but to facilitate the brutal RUC means used to extract statements which would then be the sole basis for convicting guilty or innocent alike? These bad character courts jailed many innocent people from the North both unionist or nationalist and jailed very few guilty state officials.

    If bad character was a consideration that trial would never have gone ahead. What this outcome demonstrates is evidence of bad character - the judge is the bad character.

  10. Michaelhenry,

    I am glad you are interested in this case. Perhaps you will ask your leaders why they allowed such a system to come into effect whereby the British judiciary could still jail republicans. It is hardly too much to ask.

  11. Frankie,

    I think you are right. I recall raising questions over the Bobby Rodgers conviction. The state here has too much power against civil liberties. How is the citizen to be protected from the state when it has such powers.

    Billy Brooks,

    Anne Travers has good ground for complaint given her loss. When it happened I don't remember making much sense of the attack on Tom Travers. It was very easy for us to pronounce anybody a 'legitimate target' for any infringement of what we held to be the truth. Much of it failed to take into account that the people framing the target category now sit in Stormont government and want to sit in government in Leinster House. That they could pin a bullseye on the chest of anyone is depraved.

    At the tailend of the IRA's war the whole athos of targeting had been upended. The Teebane attack showed that much. Where IRA attacks at one point hit at the centre they were now hitting at the margins. Another one I had arguments in jail about.

  12. Mackers,
    There has always been talk that the Travers incident was sabotaged by the Brits.
    Setting that aside, what happened to her sister was horrendous but those people remained detached and completely indifferent to the blatant injustice going all around them.
    Then, all these years later Anne deployes the help of arch bigots to pass a blatantly ridiculous law.

  13. Nuala,

    there seems little doubt that there was agent involvement.

    People experience injustice differently. The closer it is to us the easier it is to understand it. And there are a range of ways to address injustice. Creating more of it hardly seems one of them. In my view for all its external dynamic and the genuine conviction of those who applied it, the armed republican campaign simply violated too many rights in the course of prosecuting it. It is the same today.

    Some of those who defined what was a legitimate target would by thier own criteria have been legitimate targets back in the day. I doubt very much that I could ever consider a person legitimate for targeting because Martin McGuinness said so. Morrison and Adams semed to think the hunger strikers qualifed for the same sort of outcome - fair game in their warped view of the world.

    Everything these people ever told us about anything or anyone needs reevaluated. The entire campaign needs a fresh eye brought to it. And we simply cannot pretend that we weren't taken in by these bamboozlers. When we could feel their piss on our backs we still preferred to believe it was rain.

    Anne Travers will always feel that the injustice she experienced is infinitely worse than any injustice caused by the Sidekicks Bill. We can hardly blame her.

    Yet the bill is in my view unjust and punitive. I doubt very much that its TUV sponsor will ever be found calling for prosecution of Special Branch handlers associated with the Travers shooting.

  14. Frankie

    agree with your point and I should have highlighted more that the victims of our rotten laws will always be the foot-soldiers of the republican and loyalist armies and never the puppet-masters of the british state.

    the working class foot-soldiers are doomed to be eternally deemed guilty while our enemies and erstwhile leaders are leading the chorus in securing our convictions through rotten courts and a rotten political system.

  15. Mackers,
    I can't understand Anne's thinking on this, if I could I would say so.
    If anything,I thought that she would applaud a woman like Mary Mc Ardle .
    Given the fact that she was prepared to turn her back on all she professed to fall in behind a British Minister.
    Both women are supportive of a process that sits unquestioning, while injustice after injustice is visited on people such as Seamus Kearney.

  16. ""Where Conjecture Replaces Evidence"


    Simply tell Gerard 'geriatic' Hodgins that 50 is the New 30

    But there is something to be said about a man over 50. The best ones have the wisdom, character and compassion that come with age… yet still look like they're in their 30s!

    So really a 56 year old is actually 36.....

  17. Hodgies,

    much of the focus on non state combatants is about the Brits trying to maintain the fair broker position, where it had to be a swine it was because it was pig in the middle. Harassing loyalist ex combatants is good for the optics in that it allows the Brits to distance itself from people it it does not like to be associated with in the public eye. The last thing it is about is justice.

  18. Nuala,

    that is more a poke in the eye of Mary McArdle than Anne Travers!

  19. From Gareth Canning

    Gerard is spot on with what he is saying. This case has only come about due to Seamus Kearney like others such as Gerry McGeough and Martin Corey not buying in to the current set up of the peace process its a case of standing up and being seen as outspoken against the farce that has become Sinn Fein.

    In a way they have refused to tow the party line and have then been seen as out of the loop and fair game. This case has also got me wondering if the people in question had stayed with Sinn Fein and held places of power in Stormont would the H.E.T have been so quick to link these people to past events?

  20. Bad character is simply another term for political prejudice. What British diplock judge would not view the activities of republicans as demonstrating 'bad character'? This category affords free rein to the political prejudice of the adjudicator.

  21. Mackers,
    Too be honest that's what I found puzzling I thought quite bizarrely these women have more in common with each other than they do with women standing outside the agreement.

    I thought Anne's Law a huge back ward step for anyone proposing to be interested in democracy.
    But then as I said before, Sinn Fein Mary Mc Ardle's party were quite happy to go along with legislation which puts the boot into ex-prisoners.

    Frank 50 the new 30 sounds good.

  22. Great piece Gerard:

    We have now gone back in time to the old Diplock Courts.

    Guilty until proven innocent

    Bad Character? , just a load of crap, without it he would not be inside.
    Michaelhenry has made some good points which i think should be taken up with an appeal.

    But we all know who to Blame, SF, They should be walking with their heads lowered between there legs, they know they have created all this, another political diplock case for the Books and SF administered British Injustice. The Brits are loving all this. in the old days, It just took one person to whisper a name as a tout, then the word got about and that person was dragged in for Provo Questioning, So I have a few names as Touts, Adams , Mc Guinness , Morrison , The whole of the Nutting Squad, get the names out and let it go virile, how many lies have they told about Deceased Republicans who did not agree with SF so called peace process .

  23. Seems to me no Republican or Loyalist can complain of lack of justice or being stitched up, in principle. They can only rightly complain of British hypocrisy in doing so. All paramilitaries were guilty of worse that stitch-ups, so complaining about them as if one is morally offended makes the paramilitary as much a hypocrite as the Government.

    If you are going to complain guys, complain about the hypocrisy, not the event.

  24. Wolfsbane,

    while there is something in this it is too superficial.

    It would hold true if those republicans who complain wanted to avoid practicing what they preach or demanded that British security figures be prosecuted but not those of their own perspective.

    The current dispensation is predicated on leaving the past behind us. That means republicans not attacking the state, loyalists not attacking the nationalist community, and the Brits not attacking other former combatants. What we have is the Brits using the law as a weapon to assault the others, republican and loyalist. It amounts to a hypocrisy and an injustice that a lot of republicans are not currently indulging in.

  25. Anthony, I appreciate that not all Republicans or Loyalists may be indulging in it, but it seems to me the campaigns to discover the truth about Bloody Sunday, etc. end up with demands for prosecutions. How come? Are those calling for 'justice' here not representative of most Republicans?

    Could be I've taken it up wrong - but that's how it seems to me. If you can assure me it's not like that, I'll gladly retract my accusation of hypocrisy.

  26. LOL@Frankie
    I'm so glad you said that 50 is the new 30! I hadn't the balls to say it!

    AM (and everyone else)
    As I said, it's a fucking disgrace what's happened to Seamus Kearney, what's also a disgrace is that now he's been given a life sentence, the Brits can now arrest him and sling him back in gaol (after he gets out), for any number of "offences" that they care to dream up! So, if he goes for a drink or talks to or associates with, say, AM, Fionnuala or Gerard Hodgins (as examples) the Brits could say he was associating with "dissidents"! Hell won't be full until the slimy SF bastards who not only stand idly by while injustices like this happen, but actually enable it!

  27. Wolfsbane,

    I think people have the right to the truth about Bloody Sunday. But I don't believe there should be prosecutions.

    I think most republicans (and I am not talking about Sinn Fein Catholics here, but republicans) probably accept the logic that prosecutions of any combatants is a law and order approach to a problem that was not in essence a mere malfuncion of law and order but one of deeper political significance. Prosecutions simply drain the conflict of its political context and content.

    Some here have called for prosecutions of British combatants but the majority in my view see the pointlessness of it. It suppresses truth rather than unlocks it.

    Ultimately, truth recovery and prosecutions are not the same and are often work against each other

  28. that the victims of our rotten laws will always be the foot-soldiers of the republican and loyalist armies and never the puppet-masters of the british state

    That much is clear to me. Both the republican & loyalist foot soldiers got shafted by the GFA. Everyone knows that the British dirty trick dept. was filthy and former members of the BA/RUC litterally got away with murder.
    How many times since the GFA (and before) was a de-facto anmesty handed out to certain indivuals...?

    Judges often cite, 'Ahh but you were a driver, who drove an ASU to kill someone...so you are guilty too and have the same blood on your hands'..While forgetting about MRF/FRU activities...Allowed Scap to 'shut up' who he wanted. It wasn't that long ago he was questioned by the RUC/PSNI but released with out charge. Wasn't that an anmesty of sorts..?

    All the investigations, being hauled before courts etc for pre 1998 murders will only keep the divisions in place. Maybe one day the complete truth about what the British got away with will be told. But the players will be dead by then and wont face justice.

    IMO, not only locking someone up for two years in the twlight of their life is pointless, it's also a complete waste of money that could be re-directed in rebuilding trust.

    @ Billy & Fionnuala, it gets better..Soon 60 will be the new 40.

  29. Anthony, thanks for the insight. God to see that agree that prosecutions is not the way to go.

    Anyway, here's a comment I made in my local newspaper:

    'Larkin is a thinking man - he knows that such an 'amnesty' is the logical requirement of the Belfast Agreement, or at least consistent with it.

    If Justice is essential for the past, then the prisoners should not have been released early. But the majority of us saw that an end to the Troubles justified the price of early release - and justified Unionists sitting in government with those who carried out much of the violence.

    Did we do so out of callous disregard for the victims? No. Many of us had friends murdered and maimed in the Troubles, or were directly impacted ourselves. Our consent to the Belfast Agreement was not a surrender to terrorism, but a recognition that both our communities had harmed each other unjustifiably in our attempt to defeat the other. Now we voted for an agreed future, or at least to work for such.

    Can we handle never-ending investigations, enquiries, prosecutions for unlawful acts carried out by terrorists and State forces? Can we handle imbalanced attempts to do so? Maybe. But John Larkin sees the likelihood of recriminations and accusations of partiality poisoning our communities. And seriously draining the finances of the PSNI/PPS.

    Does drawing a line at 1998 mean we are saying all before it doesn't matter? NO. All of us should remember the folly and the pain of our people. We can hope the perpetrators have had a change of mind - but at least we know they have learnt they could not win and have changed their ways.

    Our task is to bring a new united community out of the suffering communities we come from. Drawing a line is the easier option, pursuing justice the harder, in my opinion.'

  30. Wolfsbane,

    you might consider writing a piece for us on the issue.

  31. In spirit, I appreciate Wolfsbane's point, and the modernity of it all, and the fact that it is happening to predominantly white people, makes it seem like the England/Ireland situation is different. When we look at other similar historical situations, though, like Israel/Palestine, or England/Iroquois, we see that capitulation only slows, not stops, the genocide. Ireland is such a beacon in western history because, long after India and America had given up and joined the imperial project, Ireland was still resisting British encroachment--even into the late twentieth century. It is with great sorrow that we all see the queen getting tax revenue from the north.

    Ah well; turn the other cheek. We have to believe that justice awaits the Windsors somewhere else, because they're sure not going to get it here.

  32. From Beano Niblock

    Whether it is republican or loyalist ex foot soldiers the pattern will remain the same whilst the current process is in operation.

    Those who were deemed to be on the lowest rungs of their respective ladders will be the ones who will get their collars felt.

    The HET or future equivalent will not venture past the bottom few rungs so in essence the "real villains" are safe from prosecution.

    I am not surprised that Seamus Kearney was convicted on the evidence offered-just as Bobby Rodgers was. And like Rodgers he will receive a hefty tariff. The DPP will then ask for the tariff to be increased as they did in Rodgers case. Which is a pathetic course considering he will be out in 2 years.

    Regarding bad character ... there is nothing new in this term. As far back as 1972/73 the same method was applied to keep people interned. The so called allegations often had no substance other than an officer of the RUC telling the panel of "judges" that he believed the detainee basically to be a bad boy.

    So don't be fooled into thinking that even forty years later that evidence plays a major part in a conviction.

  33. Anthony

    I doubt if I have much more to offer that warrants a piece. But here's a follow-on to the above, a slightly amended exchange with two responders:

    Objection: How you can try and belittle other elected members of parliament and the people who vote for them? Do they not have the same right to be in government as any other elected member? Is that not the whole point of Democracy?

    Answer: I am not belittling any elected members, much less those who vote for them. Just stating their nature - they have not denied or repudiated their past.

    Yes, they have the same right to be in government as the rest of the politicians. My point is that the rest of the politicians cannot say drawing a line on the past is immoral and at the same time do the very thing by sitting in government with those who led a terrorist campaign. To be consistent, they should refuse to sit in government with them until the past has been sorted. In other words, to scrap the Belfast Agreement, to make it void by not having cross-community support.

    But I think they are more sensible than that, and know that our Agreement was the only way to go if we were to get agreement, rather than victory for one side or defeat for both sides.

    Objection: The Unionists are most righteous and it is their Government to sit in... Letting anyone else in with mandate or no mandate is a great concession on their part (or at least that's what they seem to think).

    Answer: Yes, each side can focus solely on the wrongs done it and the rightness of their position - but they fail to see the rights of the others and the injustices done to them. Unionists (my 'side') have an easy time kidding themselves on this, for we can claim to be supporting the State, law and order - and all societies hold that is a good thing. The Nationalists/Republicans have on their side historic grievances about the plantation and discrimination, etc.

    So easy to blame the 'others' and not appreciate our contribution to the problem.

    The Belfast Agreement was about stepping out of all that, drawing a dashed line under our past abuses of one another and seeking an agreed future. I'm saying it is time to fill in the spaces between the dashes - to move beyond the semi-amnesty that was prisoner releases, decommissioning and sitting together in government with former terrorists. I say focus on the future, on how can avoid the mistakes of the past - and leave justice for the Troubles with God.