Former IRA bomber ‘completely hypocritical’ over waterboarding claims

British Army soldiers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s

British Army soldiers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s

Unionists have accused a former IRA bomber of being “completely hypocritical” for condemning soldiers for alleged waterboarding.

On Wednesday night Channel 4 interviewed individuals who claimed they had suffered water boarding and electric shocks by paratroopers in the Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

The broadcaster produced documents in which then taoiseach Jack Lynch appeared to raise the issue with then prime minister Ted Heath.

One man claimed he was snatched by the Paras in 1972.

“I was brutalised, a lot of physical beating and kicking,” he said. “It progressed on to other forms of torture. One of which has now been described as waterboarding.

“There was a cloth tied around my head. I was held face down by the two soldiers and water poured over the back on my head which filled up the cloth. Which was a sensation of drowning. Thinking back on it, it was suffocation.”

The revelation comes after US President Donald Trump endorsed water boarding to fight Islamist terrorists.

Lord Ashdown, who served in the Marines in Belfast in the 1970s, said he was not surprised by the allegations.

When asked if there should be an inquiry, Lord Ashdown said: “The blunt answer is yes. If it is the case that these forms of torture were used, if there is documentary evidence to prove it, and if there is a case that the government was aware of it and hid it, then it is important those facts come out.”

Former IRA bomber Pat Sheehan said the programme was “part of a growing body of evidence of the use of torture by British state forces in the Six Counties”.

UUP Uupper Bann election candidate Doug Beattie MC said there was “no place for torture of any kind”.

But he added that he was “very easy” in 2017 to judge “chaotic” events faced by troops and police on the ground 45 years ago. There were 26 deaths in 1970, the next year saw 171 and in 1972 there were 476.

“No organisation faced with the circumstances they had to contend with would not have made mistakes or looked back and wished they had handled some things differently.

“However it is completely hypocritical for Pat Sheehan, a former IRA man, to complain about torture.”

The Army arrested people and either released them or sent them for prosecution. “By contrast, the IRA illegally detained people, tortured them, and murdered them.”

Retired RIR colonel Tim Collins said “unacceptable activities” by the Army in the early 1970s were the subject of a number of investigations, some of them at a European level.

“Unacceptable activities were stopped, prohibition of such practice was built into training, compensation was paid and some of these cases even went to European Human Rights courts,” he said.

“This is now history. The IRA and Sinn Fein have never been fully brought to account for their widespread and systematic use of torture. No prisoner has ever survived detention by the IRA much less received compensation. Many of those unfortunates remain ‘disappeared’. Sinn Fein’s hypocrisy is simply staggering.”

He urged Pat Sheehan to use “all his influence” to uncover the remains of the disappeared.

TUV Strangford candidate Stephen Cooper also described Mr Sheehan’s comments as “nauseating” as he had previously bombed a cash and carry.

“The IRA excelled in torture,” he said. “Ask the family of Jean McConville and others disappeared by the IRA. Ask the families of those used as proxy or human bombs by the Provos.

“I think particularly of Patrick Gillespie who was forced to drive a bomb into an Army base in Londonderry while his family were held at gunpoint.”

The government said it would not comment on specific allegations.

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