Kevin Hannaway, Gerry Adams’ Cousin And Former IRA QMG And A/G, Arrested On Dissident Charges

Ed Moloney with a piece on the arrest of Kevin Hannaway.  Ed Moloney blogs @ The Broken Elbow.   

News tonight that veteran West Belfast Republican,  Kevin Hannaway, one of the ‘hooded men’ tortured by British intelligence after the 1971 internment swoop has been arrested in Dublin on charges apparently connected to dissident armed republican activity. He appeared in court yesterday evening along with four others, including another member of the Hannaway clan.

Kevin Hannaway, arrested in Dublin, accused of involvement with dissidents.
Kevin Hannaway, arrested in Dublin, accused of involvement with dissidents

The significance of the allegation is twofold. First of all Kevin Hannaway’s father Liam was a brother of Gerry Adams’ mother, Annie Hannaway, which makes Gerry and Kevin cousins. The fact that such a close relative of the architect of the Sinn Fein/Provisional IRA peace process strategy has been accused of being in sympathy with enemies of the peace process is likely to be a source of considerable embarrassment and political discomfort for the SF President – at least in pre-peace process republican circles.

When things were simpler. A young Gerry Adams, in spectacles, poses with his uncle Liam Hannaway, Kevin Hannaway's father, who is on the extreme right. The other two are Geordie SHannon and Eddie Keenan, famous IRA men for the Forties.
When things were simpler. A young Gerry Adams, in spectacles, poses with his uncle Liam Hannaway, Kevin Hannaway’s father, who is on the extreme right. The other two are Geordie Shannon and Eddie Keenan, famous IRA men from the Forties. None of the early media reports in Ireland about Kevin Hannaway’s arrest mentioned his connection to Gerry Adams, evidence of either appalling ignorance or unforgivable timidity. Or both.

The second important feature of Kevin Hannaway’s arrest is that he is one of the most respected survivors of the Provisional IRA’s founding fathers and won enormous respect for surviving British Army and RUC Special Branch torture during the 1971 internment swoop.

In a sidebar to the internment operation, he was one of twelve men selected for in-depth interrogation by British intelligence, an experience which the victims said was torture. They took the case to Europe, initially won but lost on a British appeal. The decision was later cited as justifying CIA torture by the Bush White House.

Following a recent decision to re-open the case, their legal action is now being re-fought at the European Court of Human Rights; one of the leading lawyers acting for Hannaway is Amal Clooney, wife of the movie star George Clooney.

Kevin Hannaway rose to become Quarter-Master General of the IRA and held that post when the IRA negotiated the ‘Eksund’ arms deal with Libya’s Col Gaddafi. However he became ill shortly afterwards, suffering from the long lasting after effects of his torture, and quit that post. His successor was Michael McKevitt, who along with Tom ‘Slab’ Murphy, then Northern Commander of the IRA, successfully transported all the Libyan arms shipments to Ireland, bar the final one on the Eksund.

Hannaway became Adjutant-General after leaving the QMG post but not long afterwards resigned from the IRA, again citing ill-health.

The fact that such a distinguished and high-ranking IRA veteran has been accused of a relationship with dissident republicans – even though the details are not yet clear – is a development that will not be welcomed by the ‘New Provos’, especially after a weekend which saw one of their leaders, Martin McGuinness, condemn republicans who clashed with the PSNI as they commemorated the anniversary of internment.


  1. The republican narrative was that the people scooped during internment were innocent civilians who were brutally tortured by the monstrous Brits. This puts a bit of a different light on events.

  2. That is not the republican narrative at all - the republican narrative was that among those scooped were many non involved people and that the Brits were guilty of torture. Which remains as true today as it was then. The guilty have the same right not to be tortured as the innocent. As for his arrest, I guess to be consistent you would need to apply the same criteria as you did to the Orange Order guy charged with attempted murder at Ardoyne. It is the only way it will work for you

  3. Anthony,

    That only works for you if he was a suspected criminal and not a soldier at war. I don't recall any republican narrative at the time admitting that the internees were active Provos, but I am happy to stand corrected.

  4. Soldiers at war have the same rights as a suspected criminal not to be tortured. There was no republican narrative stating that the internees were active Provos. But that was not your point, which was that the republican narrative held that the internees were innocent men who the Brits tortured. That was simply not the republican narrative.

  5. Unless they were British soldiers in which case they could expect to be brutally tortured and murdered if captured by the IRA. The case of the 'hooded men' was taken to Europe and the top court their found that they were not tortured.

    I'm not trying to twist things here Anthony, but if the republican narrative was not that the internees were active Provos then surely they could only have been innocent men? My recollection of republican propaganda is that the Brits were accused of lifting the wrong men and torturing them. This article, and the subsequent European court case, shows that neither was the case.

  6. British soldiers have as much right not to be tortured by the IRA as the IRA have not to be tortured by British soldiers. Europe ruled against torture preferring a lesser form of brutality although the techniques used are now recognised as torture and few doubt it was torture. Common sense tells us it was torture. But you are not obligated to accept the definition.

    The British are unlikely to be hopeful about the outcome of a return to Europe. The republican narrative was as I stated it was: many innocent people were arrested in the swoops. I think the initial IRA statement said that about 36 of its members had been arrested in the opening swoop in Belfast but that the effect on its command structure had been negligible.

  7. The difference being that the British were accountable to wider civilisation and the Provos were not. Hence Hannaway is alive and well and capable of continuing with the activities described whilst Robert Nairac is dead and disappeared. It's all about perspective I think. Hannaway and his friends had to stand on their tip toes and listen to loud noises. I think that the Provo torture methods were a bit more extreme.

  8. For all the British accountability they persisted with state terrorism. I don't think trivialising torture is a worthwhile venture. The former SAS colonel Clive Fairweather told me that Nairac was clubbed with a lump of wood but not tortured for information and that he would have done the same himself. Have been meaning to put the piece I did about Fairweather out this past month and something has always intervened. It is sitting there ready to go. I don't think we know as much about Provo torture methods as we do about the British methods.

  9. The general public don't know much about Provo torture methods, but I think that has a lot to do with not upsetting the feelings of the families of their victims. The one common feature with any enemy who became a prisoner of the Provisional IRA is that they ended up dead, and their bodies were invariably either disappeared or booby trapped. The difference in human rights standard between the British and the Provos is off the Richter scale and certainly not in favour of the IRA.

    I'm fascinated to know how Fairweather knew exactly what happened to Nairac? Was he there?

  10. No Fairweather was not there but I am sure he had his source for the info just as you weren't there and have your source for claiming Nairic was tortured. We just don't know. Your account might be as good as his.

    The history of inquests should tell us something about IRA torture. But torture is wrong, never justifiable.

  11. I just read the guy's obituary and he was involved in the follow up to Nairac's abduction and murder, so he may have had access to intelligence. I am just going by the court case involving Townsend in which he said that they beat the shit out of him, but that he never broke and that "he was a great soldier".

    I have never justified torture by the way.

  12. I don't think you justified torture but I do think you tried to trivialise it.

    Fairweather said he had disarmed one of his captors and they beat him to subdue him.

    Intelligence hasn't been all that reliable either so we have to make of these things what we will.

    That's me for this evening.

    Good night

  13. As the law stands what happened to Hannaway was not torture so I wasn't trivialising it. What happened to him is standard interrogation resistance training for aircrew and special forces.

    It's worth noting that Fairweather did not approve of Nairac's activities (professional rivalry methinks between the SAS and 'the Walts'), but he is correct that Townsend said he beat Nairac with a lump of wood. The fact that he didn't break sort of suggests that they were trying to break him which would of course be torture. I probably didn't pick the best example, but there are plenty of others. Paddy Flood's body weighed six stone when it was found. William Meaklin was said to have been given 'an awful death' by the IRA after they kidnapped him.

    Remembering these things doesn't make for sweet dreams, but good night.

  14. Cue Bono,

    we shall agree to differ on trivialising. It can be taken no further.

    If we allow our knowledge only to be legal/evidential there is nothing you can in fact say about Hannaway. Ed's article is not a trial nor has his narrative been proved in court.

    Fairweather had quite a few things to say that might surprise you and others. Will put the piece out at the weekend as it is finished and ready for the publish button.

    Torture is not always used to get information. Bobby Tohill was in my view tortured by the IRA but not for info, many were tortured by the Shankill UVF for the sheer pleasure of the torturers. So, Nairac might have been tortured. It depends on the degree of violence used, for how long etc. It can be highly subjective.

    Paddy Flood, I believe had not a finger laid on him. I think this was reported on at the time (maybe by Kevin Toolis in the Guardian) and in a recent reading of the case in Paul Larkin's very British Jihad, I didn't pick up on him being tortured. But if he was 6 stone then as you state then something terrible happened to him prior to death.

    William Meakin, I am not familiar with the case and if I was I have forgotten the details.

    The issue is not about whether the IRA did or did not torture, or the British for that matter but about your opening comment on republican PR which in my view lacks substance. And nothing has emerged during the course of the exchange to make me feel you called it right.

    I guess that is as much as I want to say on the matter but you are free to come back to it.

  15. I look forward to your article on Fairweather. The guy seems to have been a bit of a maverick.

  16. He was not a firm's man, that's for sure.

  17. Cue Bono

    "The republican narrative was that the people scooped during internment were innocent civilians who were brutally tortured by the monstrous Brits. This puts a bit of a different light on events."

    No it does not. 1: As of yet no case been proven against Hannaway. 2: If a case is proven against him in current times not not imply guilt 45 years ago.

    "As the law stands what happened to Hannaway was not torture so I wasn't trivialising it."

    There is no law whatsoever that justified the torture of Hannoway and others. The British Government conceded to the case against them preferring to plead guilty to 'degrading and inhumane treatment rather than torture (which the ECtHR agreed to do). The ECtHR has reopened its decision to downgrade from Torture to inhumane treatment because the Brits lied and falsified its case. International human rights law recognizes that the sort of treatment the men endured is universally considered to amount to torture.

    So clearly you are trivalising it by attempting to make out an argument that even the British government couldn't back in the 1970's. Worse still you are trying to say he did something wrong recently therefore he deserved to be tortured 45 years ago. Next you will be arguing that the Shankill Butchers were pacifist vegans -'the law says so!'.