Wednesday, 4 March 2015


They say life is stranger than fiction but some of the stuff that's happening in South Armagh, is straght out of the Murphy's Law, textbook. A year ago today, one of Willie's Frazer's cult followers, was minding his own business, when one of Murphy's Sin Fein councillors brought his attention to two Irish tricolour flags, that were also minding their own business, in trees at the edge of lake in Bessbrook. Murphy's councillor brought Oswald Bradley's attention to the flags and said the Irish tricolours should come down. Sin Fein made the following statement at the time, calling for their removal, saying they were "overtly sectarian, intimidating and threatening," Well Willie Frazer's cult follower became enraged and emboldened by Sin Fein rhetoric, he started to have some very strong feelings about the presence of the Irish flags on the island on Mill Pond. So being a Willie Frazer man, he put a Union Jack flag in his pocket and started to swim out to replace the flags with the Union Jack, as Sin Fein had advised, when the poor man, got into trouble while swimming across to the flags.

The tricolours erected in Bessbrook

Oswald Bradley, a stout Orangeman in his 70s, entered the water at Bessbrook Mill Pond at 5pm and after getting into fierce difficulties, was pulled by the Orange Order and Sin Fein from the water. Despite all sorts of mouth to mouth resusitation to revive him, poor Oswald could not be saved and kicked the bucket. After the tragedy Sin Fein representatives arranged for a canoeist to go out in the lake and retrieve the Union Jack flag which was floating on the pond. Sin Fein also removed the two tricolours, which were doing nobody any harm at all, from trees on the pond island.

Pastor Barrie Halliday, a member of the Pentecostal Church and also a member of Willie Frazer's outfit, said Mr Bradley was also a member of Willie's organisation, and as a result of the Sin Fein controversy, that Oswald was upset about the presence of the Irish flags in the mixed village. He said Mr Bradley considered the recent erection in the village, an insult. Murphy's people in the area had attempted to swim out to remove the Irish flags, in days previous to the tragedy but found it too tough and turned back, leaving poor 70 year old Willie to die in the lake. He also said: "Ossie was a very down-to-earth man and he saw these flags as an act of cruelty."

Now you would think by the law of averages, that would be that for a while, but this is South Armagh Occupied Ireland and last week, Murphy sent another crew to remove something, that was offending them, up a pole that promptly exploded and blew Murphy's man back down again, giving him a pair of black eyes and a very bloody nose. There was fierce weeping and gnashing of teeth about it altogether and Murphy took off to London to get away from it all, all expenses paid by Her Majesty the Queen of England of course. 

So a couple of nights ago, some republican stalwarts in Bessbrook, who hadn't forgotten about the Sin Fein removal of their tricolour a year previously, decided to erect a new tricolour and keep watch with camera on what would happen. Well last night a pickup came down the road crawling.  It's not clear if it was one of Willie Frazers or Murphy's mob, with the intention to remove the tricolour. As they watched from an upstairs window, camer in hand, they could see one of their young fellows climb up the pole to remove it, when all of a sudden, there was an almighty blast and a bang, that blew him back down the pole again. 

His brethern came to his rescue, gave him mouth to mouth resusitation and put him in the back of the pick-up and drove off again. Now none of the media are covering the matter, so there appears to be a cover-up about the incident, because of embarrassment following events just a week earlier. The republicans being the gentlemen that they are, decided to remove the tricolour for dry cleaning, to prevent further cruelty to the eyes of South Armagh, at least for the time being.

Now all of this takes me back to when Provisional Sinn Fein first participated in Assembly elections in South Armagh in 1982, and we were intending to drive through the mixed village of Bessbrook, in a motorcade through the village. Taxi Hughes from Newry and myself were to head the motorcade, with a tricolour, in a pickup not too different from the one last night. We weren't the owners, the Murphys would know who owned it. Of course the Newry lads had to do the dirty work and lead the motorcade, with the tricolour. The Murphys were way back, being soldiers of the rearguard. 

Well the sectarian RUC stopped us and apparently they regarded the Irish Flag, as cruelty to both their eyes and to some residents of Bessbrook. So Taxi and myself, bought as much time as we could, delaying the issue as best we could, until we got some support from the Murphy's behind. Well into the proceeding, I looked behind for the support but Lo and Behold! there wasn't a sign of the Murphy's. Well the two of us were well outnumbered by numerous angry RUC men, we held our ground as best we could but we couldn't breach their ranks, as our backs weren't covered. The lesson I learned that day, was always remember to have your back covered, by people you can definitely trust. Now of course the Murphy's will deny this but if you don't believe me, you can go into Newry and ask Taxi Hughes, a dacent man who did time for his country, who stood by the Irish Triolour. 


Come all ye bold teetotallers and list' to me a while,
And if you close attention pay I'll cause you to smile;
No story of Grecian queen, nor tale of Trojan say
But a tale of woe that happened so with whiskey in me tay.

I was a bold teetotaller for three long years and more,
The neighbours all respected me and decent clothes I wore,
My family were fond of me till one unlucky day
Just like a child I was beguiled with whiskey in me tay.

I only took the smallest sup when up the ructions rose,
I saw that I was put upon and slaughtered friends and foes,
A Polisman surrounded me and hauled me up next day,
The charge was read and duly pled, 'twas whiskey in me tay.

From Carrickmacross to Crossmaglen the polisman(?) did vow
There are more rogues than honest men as any will allow,
It isn't rogues or honest men the Justice then did say,
We deal with now, but a drunken row from whiskey in his tay.

This man he was a sober man for three long years or more
The neighbours all respected him and decent clothes he wore,
The story is an ancient one the justice did say,
He'll pay up bail or go to gaol for whiskey in his tay.

So all bold teetotalers if sober you would be
Be careful of your company and mind what happened to me,
It wasn't the lads from Shercock or the boys from Ballybay,
But the dealing men from Crossmaglen put whiskey in me tay.

Letter from the Craigavon Two

An open letter written by miscarriage of justice victims Brendan McConville and John-Paul Wootton, followed by a recent synopsis of the case.

We acknowledge with interest the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the murder of Michael Tighe by the RUC in 1982.This was clearly a case of injustice in which vital evidence (a recording device) was destroyed to cover the realities of an RUC shoot-to-kill policy.

It would be difficult to ignore the glaring parallels that exist between this case and our own with regard to the destruction of key evidence. This is especially so given the conclusion reached by a director of the company responsible for manufacturing the device which contributed to our wrongful convictions. At the trial he stated that the wiping of data “would not have been something that could have happened purely accidentally”.

The question must now be asked: how can Mr McGrory attach such significance to the wiping of evidence in the Tighe case while at the same time ignoring similar misconduct in our case?

Mr McGrory’s expressed concern that the case of Michael Tighe could potentially undermine the credibility of the Public Prosecution Service could equally apply to our case.

In denying the truth Mr McGrory’s predecessors withheld justice from the family of Michael Tighe for more than 30 years. Does he intent to mimick what he now condemns and wait for his successor to address his current wrongs or is he now prepared to accept that justice was similarly perverted in a case in which he continues to be instrumental?

Injustice and the Craigavon 2 (by Thomas G Maher)

In 2012, John Paul Wooten and Brendan McConville were convicted of the 2009 killing of PSNI Constable Steven Carroll in Craigavon, County Armagh. Both men have maintained their innocence since the day of their arrest and interrogation by the PSNI.

John Paul Wooten was 17 at the time of his arrest and imprisoned at Maghaberry Prison, which is the adult committal prison for male prisoners in Northern Ireland. Brendan McConville at the time of his arrest was 38 years old and had previously served his community by being elected to Craigavon Borough Council.

The trial was placed under the jurisdiction of the juryless court system in Northern Ireland, formerly known as “Diplock Courts”. A jury-less court in NI is established under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Act of British Parliament) and can try a case with a single judge presiding and hearing evidence.

The evidence which the prosecution brought before the court was, as many legal experts have described, insufficient to be admissible as evidence, evidence was insufficient to carry a conviction and that the security services doctored the evidence. The evidence given by “Witness M” was only presented to the PSNI 11 months after the date of the murder. This witness placed Brenden McConville at the scene, however has admitted he (Witness M) was “intoxicated at the time”. However since then a family member of witness M, has come forward and given a statement questioning the statement of witness M and his ability to identify Brenden on the night of the murder. Since coming forward witness M has benefitted financially and has been placed into the witness protection programme. Witness M gave his testimony over tv link to the court.

At the time of the murder John Paul Wooten had been under surveillance by the British Army and a tracking device had been affixed to John Paul’s car. After the arrest of both men on the same night, the tracking device was then removed from the car and brought back to an army base and the data on the device was retrieved and then the device was wiped clean of all data. This happened six days after the date of arrest which has been questioned by the defence as unacceptable to be admissible as evidence to court. Questions have also been raised as to the device’s ability to give accurate readings in GPS format and that it has been proven data has gone missing from the device which the defence argues should never of been allowed to be presented to court.

These two pieces of evidence were the basis of the prosecutions case. It placed both suspects at the scene; made use of the corroborated evidence rule (requiring 2 pieces of evidence to be presented before any evidence is deemed to be admissible); both Brenden and John Paul were involved in republicanism (also covered by the “Hearsay rule” in English Law).

The use of the juryless court system has been called into question by Amnesty International, the Irish Human Rights Council and by previously and current serving members of the Dail, Stormont and Westminster.

To be tried under a juryless court is to be denied the very basic right under criminal law, to be tried by a jury of your peers. This right is the right of any person charged with a criminal offence and designed to give a fair balance of justice regarding the power of the state and allows for the person charged to be judge by the tested standards of the public and not that of the legal profession or the security services.

In our society a miscarriage of justice is deemed to be the failing of the law to protect the rights of the individual under the legal system and therefore any conviction or sentence can be defined in law as “invalid”. This case has many parallels in The Republic of Ireland, most notably Ian Bailey, where the State’s agents and by definition the State, allegedly doctored evidence, perverted the course of justice and committed perjury in court by corroborating the evidence which is presented in court.

At the very heart of this case is the juryless court system and its ability to give a fair and balanced trial. The Craigavon 2 have had their basic human rights under criminal law denied to them by the state, have been given life sentences based on questionable evidence and have had the appeal by the Court of Appeal in Belfast reserved with the convictions and sentences upheld.

The next step for Brenden and John Paul is the Supreme Court in London.

For more information on the Craigavon 2 go to

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