Pandora’s Box Of Ivor Bell Arrest

Martin Galvin with a letter that initially featured in today's Irish News, 27 March 2014.

A chara,

The British may think it time for self-congratulations after arresting respected Republican icon Ivor Bell. With one stroke the crown muted the Westminster outcry over its bartered OTR immunity certificates, placated Unionist adherents, and sent a sinister warning to potential Independent Republican candidates or campaigners. All the while the British continued long-fingering arrests for Bloody Sunday or collusion murders towards oblivion.

On St. Patrick’s Day a constabulary delegation originally put out of the New York parade due to Irish-American opposition, was reinserted, amidst the ‘ENGLAND OUT of IRELAND’ banners, after public pleas by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness for the new constabulary. Within days this new constabulary repaid them in old RUC form, by selectively targeting a 77 year old veteran Republican who was with one or both in negotiations with William Whitelaw.

The arrest of Ivor Bell on 1972 charges, contrasted with the failure to arrest any Bloody Sunday 1972 troopers, despite overwhelming evidence in hand, should end any questions about the one-sided immunity or impunity granted those who murdered while wearing British Army or Constabulary uniforms.

Independent Republicans are told they have a democratic right to contest elections and put their political analysis before the voters. Some point to Jim Allister as the proverbial tail wagging the DUP unionist dog on issues like the Long Kesh u-turn. They ask whether Independent Republicans at Councils or Stormont could lead other nationalist representatives on prisoner and justice issues. It has been suggested that Gerry McGeough’s arrest at the vote count and imprisonment at Maghaberry had more to do with his election campaign than with events thirty years earlier. It must now be asked whether Ivor Bell’s real crime is daring to lend his name to Ciaran Mulholland’s campaign.

This case opens a legal Pandora’s Box which will effect more than Ivor Bell. If the Boston tapes are deemed credible evidence, sufficient to imprison Ivor Bell, should we not expect the same evidence to be used against others? Who else is named on these tapes?

Once we had the ability to turn every British injustice into a campaign which made the crown end, or at least pay a costly political price for its injustices. The Blanketmen were locked away in Long Kesh but they broke Thatcher and her attempt to brand them criminals. Internment, Castlereagh Confessions, Supergrass trials and more were broken by such campaigns. We highlighted the wrong, enlisted support from human rights activists, and gradually forced nationalist representatives to stand with us or be proven complicit in British injustice.

Can we unite to fight and defeat this injustice now? Must others stand in the dock because we lost our ability to do so?


  1. Political policing is being used as a blunt instrument to intimidate Sinn Fein's opponents, but this abuse of power might also create an opportunity to unite independent Republican candidates, anti-SF Republican parties and even "dissident" unionists who feel badly used by both economic progress and the peace process.

    Northern Ireland will never know real peace until there is an impartial, South African-style truth commission. The actions of all parties - republican, loyalist and crown - must be brought into the light of day. Victims of violence, their families, and the activists on both sides who risked lives and freedom, deserve to know who did what to whom, at whose orders.

    By necessity, this will mean a general amnesty for all political crimes committed during The Troubles. This is an enormous obstacle for many, but ask yourself, is a general amnesty worse than an amnesty selectively applied by those in power? I know there is little chance that either the British government or Sinn Fein will permit such a process, but in opposing it, their blatant self-interest may finally provide the moral outrage needed to unite the working classes on both sides of the sectarian divide.

    In a recent article reprinted on TPQ, it was pointed out that the traditional working class communities of Belfast face as great a threat today from international capitalism and governmental neglect as they ever did from one another. Republicans have always dreamed of a movement that united "Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter." Perhaps the blatantly political arrest of Ivor Bell and others might provide at least the chance to finally realize that dream.

  2. Its also worth noting the political trials that took place against anti agreement republicans particulary the mckevvit trial witch proved if the state fear your politics your fucked regardless of guilt or innocence

  3. I think the box was opened long before Boston and what has flown and sitting dormant in dark corners will manifest.
    This is not the first time IRA volunteers have went on tape to give candid descriptions of their involvement in IRA operations but regrettably as Professor English warned,
    It will probably be the last.

  4. What do you think now Chap That GA has been arrested? Still SF political thuggery?