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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 8. 27 April 1972

Irish Muck Raked

page 9

Irish Muck Raked

Over the past three years we have been getting consistently misleading and one-sided 'information' in our newspapers about the situation in Northern Ireland. The Press Association stories carried by the Dominion and the Evening Post have been wrong so often that the reliability of anything we read in these papers about Northern Ireland is seriously open to doubt.

August 9 1971 was a night of destruction and killing in Northern Ireland after the then Prime Minister Brian Faulkner had announced the introduction of internment — imprisonment without trial for suspected 'terrorists'. Probably the worst destruction that night was the burning of 240 houses in the Farringdon Gardens area of Belfast. The Press Association coverage of the destruction in Farringdon Gardens, carried by the Evening Post on August 11 was rather different from the story told by a leading Belfast newspaper the Belfast Telegraph on August 10.

Tractor over Northern Ireland

The Post said that the people whose homes were destroyed, had described as 'nonsense' reports that they set fire to their own houses to prevent looting. "They are Protestant", continued The Post in sombre account. "Most of their neighbours in this, the Ardoyne area of Belfast, were Roman Catholics Repeatedly over the last few weeks, they said, they have been ordered by Catholic terrorists to leave their homes. Last night they did—as their homes were consumed by fire".

Unlike The Post, the Belfast Telegraph reported no argument about whether the Protestant residents of the Farringdon Gardens area had set fire to their homes. The Telegraph said," About 240 houses in Farringdon Gardens, Cranbrook Gardens and Velsheda Park were destroyed last night when Protestants set fire to them as families moved out. . . This morning Protestant claimed that the houses were burned to prevent them being occupied by Roman

Catholics and said that [unclear: Catholics be] seen in the area picking out [unclear: the or] which they would live. They [unclear: cla] Protestants had been [unclear: threatened w] shot unless they left the area. [unclear: But] Catholics picking among the rubble of their homes this morning, claimed that the whole thing was a plot by a few UVF ([unclear: Ulster] Volunteer Force—an extremist Protestant group) men to burn the minority of Catholic residents out. They said that they were ordered from their homes at gunpoint, and that many of the older Protestant residents did not want their homes burned." The Post did not say that Catholic homes were destroyed. Nor did it mention that both sides were critical of army action in the area. As the Belfast Telegraph : "Catholics say the soldiers did nothing to prevent the burning and one man who lost his home said troops stopped him getting into Farringdon Gardens and told: 'They have a right to burn their own homes.' And this morning Protestants criticised the soldiers for allegedly doing nothing to stop the looting of empty but unburned houses."

The differences between these conflicting reports may seem trivial. However they are just one example of many cases ehere the N.Z.P.A. - Reuters reports of the troubles in Northern Ireland conflict with reports of the same events in newspapers in Northern Ireland and England. The Belfast Telegraph is a liberal, even 'Establishment', Protestant evening newspaper in Northern Ireland. In its issue of January 21, this year, Hibernia, a newspaper in the Republic of Ireland, named the Belfast Telegraph as the Best Evening Paper of the year in Ireland. Hibernia's comments on the Telegraph are interesting. "One of the most accurate newspapers in Europe," it said, "in a situation where a minor error could lead to a riot or a killing. A real newspaper, it editorialises, follows up late news stories and has an independent editorial viewpoint which is not subservient to any political party. Excellent layout. It would be a service to the country if it were on general sale throughout Ireland."

If you read through N.Z.P.A. and Reuters reports of violence in Northern Ireland, you will probably get a strong impression that almost all the illegal 'terrorist' bombings and killings are perpetrated by the Irish Republican Army. Of course the I.R.A. is responsible for many acts of violence. The disturbing thing is that the reports earned in the Dominion and the Evening Post have often attributed acts of violence to the I R.A. when it was either likely that Protestant extremists were responsible or it has been proved that Protestant extremists were responsible.


London June 9—Police have uncovered a large arms cache in raids on buildings near [unclear: Asen] one of England's mose fashionable racecourses police disclosed here today

Press reports said the arms were probably meant for the troubled province of Northern Ireland which in the last few months has seen a series of bomb and machine-gun attacks which have been blamed on Irish republican militants.— NZPA-[unclear: Reuter].

In June on arms cache was found at Ascot. and Fleet Street speculated that they were intended for Ulster Protestants.

Belfast Telegraph

On March 6 this year the Evening [unclear: Post] in a P.A. story about the bomb last at the [unclear: Abacon] Restaurant in Belfast on Saturday 4. "[unclear: No Ireland] Police," it proclaimed in bolo [unclear: black type vowed] today to catch the men who [unclear: yesterday blow] up a cafe packed with gossiping women [unclear: ft] the biggest trail of suffering in three years [unclear: rife]. The report gave the grisly details of the [unclear: bomb] blast which killed two young women and [unclear: around] 136 people, many of them maimed for life. The bomb blast was denounced by Cardinal [unclear: Convey], the Roman Catholic Primate of all Ireland, and the Northern Ireland Prime Minister Brian Faulkner. The P.A. report stated quite casually (as if it were a matter of fact) "The bomb was assumed to be the work of the Irish Republican Army which claims responsibility for most such attacks." It continued "The Rev Ian Paisley, leader of the militant Protestants called on the Government to mobilise and arm every able bodied volunteer to meet the enemy."

The Dominion of March 6 was more prudent and mentioned neither Paisley nor the I.R.A. the P.A. assumption that the bomb blast was the work of the I.R.A was unsubstantiated in the Post report and it appears that quite a different (and far more plausible) interpretation can be placed on this event Writing in the New Stateman London Diary of March 10 'Crucifer' made some interesting comments about the Abercorn Restaurant atrocity. 'The Abercorn', he wrote, "was no stranger to outside sinister interest — but until last Saturday it has been loyalist and not I.R.A. interest. Only three weeks ago an undated cyclostyled sheet - one of the several such publications that circulate round the Shankill pubs - carried on its back page the pointed question: 'Why is the Abercorn Restaurant and Deer Park Hotel refusing to pay vigilante dues to the loyalists who are looking after Castle Street and Antrim Road?' Nor is that all. The current issue of a more substantial paper, the Ulster Defence Association Bulletin, goes out of its way to accuse the Abercorn's manager of refusing to permit the singing of God Save The Queen on his premises - no doubt the equivalent in Shankill eyes of affirming that the Abercorn was all but an I.R.A outpost. 'Crucifer' went on to [unclear: poiat] out that "If Shankill vigilantes were responsible for last Saturday's explosion, it would not be the first time that a crime credited to the I.R.A. has later turned out to be the work of quite other hands. The gelignite explosions that robbed Belfast of its water supply in 1966 are one example; the bombings which accompanied O'Neill's withdrawal in 1969 are another. In such a case there was a clear political motive — first the stopping of O'Neill's reform by stealth programme and then the getting-rid-of-him-altogether. Now what, I wonder," concluded 'Crucifer', "Could extreme Ulster Protestants be trying to put a stop to this time?"

'Crucifer's story about the Abercorn Restaurant is interesting because there is some evidence of Protestant factionalism leading to killing in Bel last last year. On May 11 the Dominion carried an N.Z.P.A. report of May 10 which began "Terrorists struck during the night with explosives and fire bombs, killing the mother of a militant Protestant leader and starting fires in Belfast Stores and shops. Police leader said the attacks were apparently earned out by Irish Republican extremists." 73 year old Mrs Isabella McKeague was the mother of Mr John McKeague. "the leader of the Shankill defence committee established by militant Protestants to defend then areas against attacks by Roman Catholics"; and it would seem quite natural to assume that the I.R.A. killed Mrs McKeague. However James Fenton in an article "Ulster: The Other Terror", (New States man November 5, 1971) told a different story. Writing about McKeague, Fenton said, "There is no evidence that his activities have divided the Protestant ranks. When recently his flat was burned, with his mother in it, he is said to have [unclear: claimed] that he knew who did the deed and it [unclear: was of] the I.R.A." Another report points out that the bomb which started the fire that destroyed the McKeague home and Mrs McKeague was so small that it did not even shatter all the windows in the building. According to forensic testimony at the inquest, the bomb had been made from potassium chlorate and sugar. (The Dominion's P.A. report stated that it was a [unclear: geligoite] bomb) [unclear: McKeague] was on holiday at the time and his mother had decided at the last [unclear: mother to] stay [unclear: at] home. [unclear: It] [unclear: seems] highly possible that bombs the was just a token blast which was not intended [unclear: to] kill anyone. A car which left the [unclear: scene] at high [unclear: speed] just before the blast was followed by a [unclear: motorist]. When stopped it was found to [unclear: contain three Protetants] from [unclear: Dundonald]. The men were apparently questioned for 48 hours before being released without charge. All this [unclear: evidence] suggest that the Dominion story which [unclear: quoted police sources] as attributing the death [unclear: of] Mrs [unclear: McKeague] to the I.R.A., was incorrect. Fenton noted several other incidents, where Protestants in [unclear: safe areas] have been blown up, which have been credibly disowned by the I.R.A. The most celebrated [unclear: about] 100lb, had been left in a [unclear: corridor]. The difficulties the I.R.A. would have encountered in passing the vigilantes and entering a pub where everyone knew else would have been enormous. Would it have been so difficult a for a rival Protestant faction? As for the theory that it was a mistake, that the locals were about to make bombs of the stuff themselves - it is said that Protestants are notoriously ill at ease with gelly, but why then would they take it into a pub?" The N.Z.P.A. report about the explosion at the Four Step Inn, which was carried in the Evening Post of October 1 last year, conveyed the the impression that the I.R.A. was responsible rather than any Protestant faction. The P.A. also carried a statement by the Rev. Ian Paisley. "In the wake of the explosion at the bar on the Protestant Shankill Road, Mr Paisley demanded that Protestant vigilante groups be formed into an unarmed Civil Defence force to combat the outlawed Irish Republican Army."

Our newspapers have, over the last three years, carried many stories about I.R.A. killings and

page break

Photo from Northern Ireland

atrocities even if these stories have often been inaccurate and have often failed to distinguish between factions of the I.R.A. The activities of the Irish Republican army should be well known in New Zealand by now; the Ulster Volunteer Force (U.V.F.) is probably less well known. As the People's Voice of April 5 1972 noted, the Dominion as late as March 10 had to make an explanation of who the Ulster Volunteer Force was when reporting the U.V.F. threat to kill ten Catholics for every Protestant killed. The report of the Scarman Tribunal, set up by the British Labour Government in August 1969 to investigate the civil disturbances between March and August 1969, was released early in April this year. The Scarman report said about the U.V.F.:

"Nevertheless, just as on the other side of the sectarian divide loomed the sinister shadow of the I.R.A., so among the Protestants there lurked extremists eager to identify themselves with the Ulster Volunteer Force of 1912, the year of the 'Ulster Covenant". The evidence suggests that these men really directed their activities against the moderates of the Unionist Party, paying little or no attention to the I.R.A. or the political opposition. Thus the public utility explosions in April (1969) which the tribunal is satisfied were the work of these extremists, were directed against the Unionist Government of the day." (Irish News, April 7, 1972).

New Zealand newspapers in April 1969 could not, have known very much about the U.V.F. For example on April 26, 1969 the Dominion carried an N.Z.P.A. - Reuter report of an explosion which shattered "yet another water main supplying Belfast - already wrestling with its worst-ever water shortage following two similar blasts earlier this week." The report commented: "The attacks have been widely blamed upon extremist elements among the minority Catholic community fighting for improved civil rights from the hands of the ruling Protestant maiority. The attacks raised fears of retaliation by extremist Protestants against Catholic sections of the City."

New Zealand papers have often carried reports [unclear: tar] and featherings and head shavings by the [unclear: 1.1] However instances of personal victimisation [unclear: do] not appear to be limited to republican [unclear: extremi]. The Irish News of May 22 1971 reported [unclear: that] 14 year old Belfast schoolboys, on their way [unclear: I] home from St. Patricks Catholic Secondary School on the Antrim Road, were attacked by group of youths who carved the initials U.V.F. on the boys' arms. The Irish Press of July 13 [unclear: reported] that a man had the letters U.V.F. cut on his stomach in three inch high letters, by five [unclear: al ailants]. After making the marks, on the the [unclear: ass ailants] said: "The next time we will kill you." The man who was attacked told the press that his was the only Catholic family living in the street where they resided. Carving the initials U.V.F. into people's bodies appears to be a favourite trick of some extremists in Belfast.

I have already mentioned the report of the [unclear: Scar] man Tribunal, which was set up by the British Labour Government in August 1969 to investigate the civil disturbances of March - August which were the beginning of the present [unclear: trouble] in Northern Ireland. In an article written [unclear: shortly] before the tribunal completed its hearings, in [unclear: the] Belfast Telegraph, June 18 1971, Donal [unclear: O'Donnell] said that" .. for almost two years (the [unclear: tribunal]) has been a feature of Northern Ireland life with extensive coverage in the Press and on television." O'Donnell commented that: "To those who have been present at the Tribunal the [unclear: lasti] impression will probably be the adherence [unclear: show] to the promise given at the outset that the ends of justice would be met by 'vigilent' respect' for the rights of those affected by it." It would be fair to say that the extensive work of the Scarman Tribunal led many Irishmen to hope that the truth about the troubles of 1969 would be fully revealed.

The news you didn't hear on NZBC—TV and/or read in the Evening Post/Dominion.

They Came In The Morning

—a booklet which reprints personal testaments from Irish political prisoners (appearing originally in the Irish Times and the Irish Independent, two of Ireland's main daily newspapers) which recount the torture, brutality and humiliations inflicted on them by British Soldiers, Officers and Interrogation Officers, such as Brigadier Frank Kitson, the British Army's expert.

Amnesty International has demanded an international inquiry conducted by impartial observers into the continuing reports of torture of prisoners. Amnesty International itself has found prima facie evidence of brutality and torture.

Below, the Irish Solidarity Committee re-prints one such case, reprinted from the Irish Times, October 11th, 1971.

The Case Of Michael Mallon

Friday, October 1st, at my home in Belfast, 5:00 a.m. Raiding party of four soldiers. Very courteous. Told me they were arresting me under the Special Powers Act.

Put me into a Saracen. Taken to Palace Barracks, Holywood. Saracen stopped half way down Black's road. Road tree-lined on each side. I thought I was for it. British soldier said to me: "Don't worry about brutality, son, it just doesn't happen. It's not true." Apparently they stopped because a Saracen behind them had mechanical difficulties.

Took me into reception area in Palace Barracks. Took particulars, name and address. Also took possessions. I was then brought into a big bare room and told to sit down. I was photographed. Then what appeared to be a civilian clerk or policeman brought me into a small office-type room. He took my name, addresses since I was born, names and ages of my five children, etc. He told me: "If you clear your sheet you'll leave here a free man". I said I did not know what he was talking about. He said: "Fair enough".

He walked me over to another big bare room and left me in the charge of two uniformed R.U.C. men. One of these went out and came back in and grabbed me from behind by the two arms. I had only a jersey and trousers on me as I dressed hurriedly when the military came. The other R.U.C. man lifted two wires off the floor with what appeared to be two black caps on them and taped them on each side of my chest with sticking plaster. Then the other R.U.C. man let go my two arms. Nothing had been said to me by this time. The R.U.C. man that had been holding my arms flicked a light switch on the wall up and down a few times. I felt severe electric shocks and my whole body convulsed. I [unclear: jumpe] up and down and the wires came [unclear: o] and I fell down on the floor. My [unclear: boc] was disjointed and a nervous [unclear: twite] set in. I could not think straight [unclear: an] was all confused. I was also [unclear: terrified.]

One of the R.U.C. men [unclear: quick] gathered up the apparatus [unclear: an] hurried out of the room. I thought [unclear: at] the time that they felt they had [unclear: don] me an injury. He then asked [unclear: me] "Where's the stuff, you f--g [unclear: bastard?] He had previously asked me [unclear: thi] question just before he switched [unclear: of] the electricity. He then helped me [unclear: into] a chair. He offered me a drink of [unclear: water] and I refused. The other R.U.C. [unclear: ma] came back and they left me [unclear: sitting] there for a while and the man who [unclear: had] previously held my arms told me [unclear: to] open my trousers. I said no. He [unclear: leane] over me and open them himself. I [unclear: waa] too scared to resist or protest. He [unclear: then] produced a hypodermic needle on [unclear: a platic] holder. He proceeded to push [unclear: l up] a little way up my penis. I felt [unclear: a] severe pain. He took it out again [unclear: and] [unclear: ok] the needle away.

They left me sitting there for [unclear: other] ten minutes to half an hour. [unclear: en] they came back with the same [unclear: ctrodes] and again attached them [unclear: to b] chest with sticking plaster. They [unclear: ve] me a very mild shock this time..I [unclear: experienced] a tingling sensation. I [unclear: etended] I got it as severe as the first [unclear: d] fell in a heap on the floor. I was [unclear: ain] helped back to a chair and left [unclear: ere] for a long time. The R.U.C. men [unclear: d] asked me no questions after the [unclear: st] two. During the remainder of the [unclear: y] two Special Branch men [unclear: estioned] me for periods of about [unclear: If] an hour to an hour each time, [unclear: is] happened three or four times, [unclear: ey] said to me: "If you clear your [unclear: eet] and tell us where the stuff is [unclear: u'll] walk out of here a free man". [unclear: ey] did not maltreat me in any way. [unclear: During] the day I had got three [unclear: als]. That night I was put in a room [unclear: th] other detainees, about four [unclear: ers]. I recognised one as Oliver [unclear: awley]. We were not allowed to talk to each other.

I was put into a small cubicle by myself as was two others. The R.U.C. man (who had held my arms) showed me a bullet. He spoke about a "45 slug". He had a revolver in his hand. He threatened my with the revolver. He said: "This is for you. You'll be shot while attempting to escape". He then placed the barrel of the revolver along the top of my head and fired the revolver. The bullet struck the corner behind my head. I could see the hole in the blackboard. His colleague said: "You stupid fucker, you missed him...

During the night I heard several other revolver shots elsewhere in the building. I concluded that somebody else was getting the same treatment...! got no sleep at all during the night. The lights were on all the time. At 5:00 a.m. I was told to get out of bed and told to fold up the bed and blankets. An R.U.C. man came in and asked me to come out with him and mop the floor of a big room next door. I did so. When I finished he told me I had done it too fast and to take my time with it. I then got my breakfast.

The R.U.C. man with the revolver asked me to get up on top of a corrugated iron fence to fix a notice on a post. The notice read "Authorised Personnel Only," I think. I got up to the top of the ladder and started to hammer a nail in. He drew his gun across his body with his right hand and levelled it at me. When I saw this movement I dived off the top of the ladder. When I dived he fired. I do not know if it was a blank or not.

For the rest of the day I was questioned by three Special Branch men. They did not maltreat me in any way. I mentioned the R.U.C. man with the revolver to them. I said he did not find those blanks on the way home from work: it was part of the interrogation.

One of the Branch men said: "If he did it, he did it without my consent or knowledge. I want to know more about it."

I was questioned three or four times during the day. I wasn't maltreated during the remainder of the day. Myself and another man were released late that night and driven most of the way home in a private car. We were let out at Black's road and walked home the rest of the way. I would recognise the R.U.C. men who maltreated me at Palace barracks if I every saw them again.

On the way out of Palace barracks I was taken into the reception office and the Military Police asked me to sign a form which to my knowledge asked the question if I had any complaints to make. I wrote "No" for obvious reasons. I could see the open gate.

I reached my home at about 11:00 o'clock that night.

They Came in the Morning, compiled by Seamas O Tuathail, published by the Irish Republic Movement - available from Irish Solidarity Committee, No. 301, 1825 Haro Street, Vancouver 5, B.C. 90 cents each

"(4) In Belfast on the night of 14 August the RUC crew of a Shorland armoured car used a mounted Browning machine gun to aim bursts of 'heavy and indiscriminate' fire into a Catholic block of flats, killing a nine-year-old boy. The crew denied the shooting. 'We believe that. . . the Shorland crew members have not made to the tribunal a full disclosure of what they know occurred

"(5) That same night members of the RUC stood by and 'failed to take effective action' while Protestants mobs burnt down houses in Catholic Conway Street.

"(6) The following night, a police armoured vehicle 'made no move' to prevent another mob from burning down Catholic houses in Brookfield Street

"(7) On 15 August the police as a whole 'failed to take any effective action to restrain or disperse the mobs or to protect lives and property in the riot areas . . . before the arrival of the army.' And there are a score of further incidents in which the police culpability is proved and mildly rebuked."

David George comments: "In the light of this sorry catalogue, the report's assurances that the police were beyond praise and their impartiality beyond doubt seem somewhat eccentric". Considering all these criticisms of this particular section of Scarman's report, the N.Z.P.A. - Reuter story printed by the Post hardly presented a very full or balanced account of the criticisms of the Tribunal's report.

The Dominion's N.Z.P.A. - Reuter story of April 8 about the I.R.A.'s plans for kidnapping and killing British soldiers is almost grotesque in its selectivity. The Dominion could just as easily have quoted the section of the Scarman Report dealing with the U.V.F. which I have quoted above. However that might have been a little embarrassing as it tells quite a different story about those responsible for blowing up public utilities in Belfast in April 1969, for example.

The above instances of blatant mistakes in the New Zealand press in falsely attributing bombings killings and burnings in Northern Ireland to Catholic elements or the I.R.A. are not the first examples of local press bias about Northern Ireland to be published in New Zealand. In an article "N. Ireland Troubles in the N.Z.Press" in the New Zealand Monthly Review number 131, March 1972, P.G. Curran has detailed six instances of press bias, only one of which is mentioned above. Most of Curran's examples were repeated in the People's Voice of April 5 1972 and I shall not repeat them again here. However as the People's Voice says "Anyone likely to get into discussions on Ireland should make a point of securing a copy of this (Curran's ) article."

New Zealand newspapers are not the only ones which are guilty of bias and blatant errors in their coverage of troubles in Northern Ireland. Newspapers in the United Kingdom and the British Broadcasting Corporation have been criticised for distorted and one-sided reporting. Corinna Adam, for example, writing in the New Statesman of October 15 1971 cited instances where British papers had (a) reported 'outrage' which probably did not in fact happen; (b) taken the official army line of gospel and (c) used emotive headlines in a quite distorted fashion. The examples of the use of of emotive headlines are instructive. "I.R.A. bullet kills baby' - in most of the papers on 4 September, when a bullet richocheted off a wall and killed 17-month-old Angela Gallagher. But 'Girl, 14 dies in gun battle three days later when what was unquestionably a British army bullet killed Annette McGavigan." Corinna Adam's examples were taken from a pamphlet documenting British press distortions by an Irish socialist Eamonn McCann.

An article by a 'Special Correspondent' on "The BBC and Northern Ireland" in the New Statesman of December 31 1971 details five examples of BBC censorship, not including the BBC ban on interviews with the IRA imposed in April 1971 which was "treated as a guilty secret" until leaked to the press in December last year. This article quotes an interesting comment made by Lord Hill of the BBC to Mr Maudling, British Secretary of State for Home Affairs that 'as between the British army and the gunmen the BBC is not and cannot be impartial'.

in the New Statesman's London Diary of February 11 'Crucifer' who has been quoted above from a different story, pointed out that two of Britain's leading newspapers the Sunday Times and the Observer had suppressed publication of "long, detailed reports" of the army's behaviour on 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry. A further article in the 'Communicators' section of the New Statesman of March 3 discusses these press suppressions further in discussing if there would have been any case for contempt against the Sunday Times and the Observer for publishing their stories, in view of the fact that a Tribunal of Inquiry under Lord Widgery, had been set up to investigate 'Bloody Sunday'. The New Statesman mentions that Eamonn McCann had written another pamphlet, "What Happened at Derry", using much material from suppressed press reports. "Enemies of Mr McCann", the New Statesman says, "might pretend that his pamphlet was a unique breach of Lord Widgery's advice to the press (not to publish) Quite the contrary. The consequence of this advice has not been to suppress all mention of what happened at Derry on 'Bloody Sunday'; merely to suppress all mention of facts unfavourable to the British Army. For example, when David Astor (of the Observer agreed with Mr Evans of the Sunday Times to kill his Derry story, he left in Mary Holland's interview with an Official IRA man who claimed to have fired at a British soldier. This story was fine propaganda to have fired at a British soldier.

This story was fine propaganda material for the British army and Stormont Government - particularly since the Observer omitted Miss Holland's I all important point that the IRA man had fired his shot one mile away from the scene of massacre and one half hour afterwards. Moreover the Observer left in a map of Derry showing the hide outs of IRA snipers, but omitted the caption explaining that these men had obeyed their orders not to fire during the course of the demonstration". Lord Widgery's report has just been published, and comments on it and especially on press coverage of it in New Zealand papers will be j the subject of a further article in Salient.

British press coverage of events in Northern Ireland has also been the subject of criticism in the Irish Republic. Writing in the Dublin magazine This Week (Vol, 3 No. 11) January 13 1972 Jack Dowling made a trenchant criticism of the quality of reportage of Irish affairs in English news papers. Dowling said: "It is crystal clear to the point of childishness that, with a single and honourable exception of the Sunday Times (which later suppressed its report of 'Bloody Sunday' - PF the English newspaper reports are paraphrases of British Army communiques and Ministerial gobble-dygook. I can remember nothing more horrifying, since the uniformity of English reporting on the 'atrocities' of EOKA terrorists in Cyprus, or the terrible savagery constantly attributed to the Kikuyu in Konya. Put bluntly", Dowling said, "the so-called high standards of English journalism stink. Their handling of the Congo situation, their page break [unclear: e] Scarman Tribunal's report was finally [unclear: publiced] in early April this year, only after the [unclear: Brit] Government had decided to impose direct [unclear: e] on Northern Ireland. The N.Z.P.A. - Reuter [unclear: ries] about the report printed by the Evening [unclear: st] and the Dominion in Wellington were scant [unclear: d] misleading, to say the least. The Post on [unclear: April 7th] headlined their story "Inquiry Absolves [unclear: Ulster] People". The Scarman Tribunal's [unclear: find-] [unclear: that] nobody actually plotted the start of the [unclear: ence] in 1969 and that the troubles had [unclear: grown] of community tension was mentioned in the [unclear: ort]. The Post also reported comments by Mr [unclear: ry] Fitt, leader of the predominantly Catholic [unclear: cial] Democratic and Labour Party [unclear: welcoming] report. Fitt, like most other Northern Ireland [unclear: iticians], was personally absolved of any [unclear: blame] starting the violence. The Rev. Ian Paisley was [unclear: orted] (according to sources close to him) to [unclear: "naturally] very pleased by the report". The [unclear: a] devoted twenty-nine words to the Tribunal's [unclear: icisms] of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the [unclear: rthern] Ireland Police force:" The report", it [unclear: d], "blamed the Northern Ireland police for a [unclear: mber] of 'serious mistakes' but ruled that it was [unclear: er] the Protestant bully boy force that [unclear: Catholics] said it was." The Post also mentioned [unclear: criti- n] of this aspect of the report from "one of the [unclear: st] militant politicians in the Irish Republic, [unclear: in] Boland, who leads his own Republican [unclear: ty] Party." Boland said that "the report could [unclear: described] as dishonest and entirely valueless." [unclear: s] interesting to note that the Post did not [unclear: men-] Scarman's name at all in its coverage of the [unclear: unal] report.

[unclear: e] Dominion's comments on the Scarman [unclear: Ret] were even briefer and more selective. On [unclear: til] 7 it mentioned Gerry Fitt's call for peace [unclear: ch] he had made during his comments on the [unclear: rman] Report - The Dominion did not [unclear: men-] the publication of the report. On April 8 The Dominion carried an N.Z.P.A. - Reuter message which concentrated on one document presented to the Scarman Tribunal by the Royal Irish Constabulary about an I.R.A. plan to kidnap members of the British Government and kill British soldiers. According to this report, the tribunal didn't evaluate the document which the I.R.A. apparently claimed was never more than a draft for discussion. The document apparently said the kidnapping would have been carried out mainly for publicity. "But it also envisaged the large - scale killing of British troops. This operation would be designed to inflict as many fatal casualties on the British as possible." It is curious why this N.Z.P.A. - Reuter report concentrated on one document from a 300 page report backed up by a seven million word transcript of evidence bound in 171 volumes.

Perhaps the New Zealand press can be excused lor its scant attention to the report of the Scarman Tribunal. Perhaps a report which deals with most, but not all, of the civil disturbances between March 30 and August 18 1969, starting with the series of explosions which helped topple O'Neill and ending with the introduction of British troops into Derry and Belfast; can be dismissed as merely interesting history today. The interesting thing about the N.Z. press reports of the tribunal's report is what they leave out rather than what they include.

The Evening Post 28 word comments on the Royal Ulster Constabulary's role in the March-August troubles are so simple that they are quite facile. Kevin Boland, some of whose comments on Scarman's conclusions about the R.U.C. were recorded in the Post was not the only Irish politician to criticise this section of the report. But even Boland's criticisms read rather differently in the Irish News of April 7, compared to the Post of the same date. Boland said that the section on RUC behaviour in August 1969 was dishonest. If the Compton Report could be described as whitewashing, then the Scarman Report could be described as completely dishonest and entirely valueless. If the rest of the document is as dishonest as the section dealing with the police then it should be rejected out of hand," he said. The Irish News carried several other criticisms of this part of the tribunal's report which were far more detailed than Boland's comments and by some more notable and well-known politicians. Paddy Devlin, M.P.; Philip Curran, chairman of the Catholic Ex-Servicemen's Association; John Hume M.P.; Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien, Irish Labour Party spokesman on Northern Ireland; Frank McManus M.P., and Bernadette Devlin, M.P.; all made pertinent comments on the reports findings about the R.U.C.'s role. Conor Cruise O'Brien, who is certainly no extremist on the subject of Northern Ireland, said. I think what will strike people here (in the Irish Republic) as surprising is the degree of exoneration for the R.U.C. and the role it played in August 1969 in Belfast." The Irish News continued, "Dr. O'Brien said most newspaper reports at the time and pinned the blame on the now defunct 'b' specials." Bernadette Devlin, who has been given so much publicity in the past by our newspapers, said: "A lot of people, including myself have paid the court penalty - I got six months - and we have a right to ask what action is going to be taken about other people Scarman has pointed his finger at". Miss Devlin said she was certain no action would be taken against the 'B' specials whom she claimed fired on unarmed crowds in Dungannon and Armagh - or against the police with machineguns in Belfast. "We cannot be asked to respect a police force which still retains these men in its ranks totally unpunished", she said.

The Scarman tribunal's exoneration of the R.U.C. despite its "serious mistakes" is worthy of more extensive and critical comment than The Evening Post saw fit to print. David George in his article "Where Scarman Failed" in the New Statesman of April 14 details the R.U.C's mistakes mentioned by the tribunal. George's list of these mistakes is set out in sequence and is worth quoting in full

(1) On 12 August the riot squad of the R.U.C. which consisted of some 300 men newly transferred from the B-Specials, 'invaded' the Bogside, under cover of a Protestant stone-throwing mob, confirming the residents' fears that they were under attack from a Protestant and police combination. This incident triggered off the sequence of events, which brought troops into Derry to man the 'peace line' between Catholics and police.

"(2) On 13 August two platoons of Specials were put on riot duty in Dungannon, despite an assurance by Chischester-Clark (the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland) that the specials would not be used for riot control. They were armed with rifles, in direct contravention of a directive from the Minister of Home Affairs that 'Specials should not carry arms. 'Contrary to orders at least four members of the USC (Ulster Special Constabulary) opened fire on an unarmed Catholic crowd, injuring three of them.' The men responsible denied having used their rifles but their denials 'put an intolerable strain on the tribunal's credulity.'

'(3) On 14 August the RUC county inspector at Armagh 'put an untrained but armed party of USC drawn from a country area into an alarming town riot without briefing or leadership'. They opened fire at a Catholic crowd, killing one man and injuring two more. Attempts were subsequently made to conceal the armed role of the Specials.

[unclear: ting] of events in Palestine, in Aden but, all (to repeat the horror), their insistent [unclear: niform] reporting of the 300-odd white [unclear: vic- of] Kikuyu terrorists, without ever a mention [unclear: 16,000] Kikuyu tribesmen slaughtered by [unclear: own] forces, are all of a piece." Dowling [unclear: con- d], "I recently met, also, the Foreign Affairs [unclear: pondent] of a great Italian newspaper. La [unclear: pa] and voiced my resentment. He shrugged [unclear: tly] and said: "It is not British [unclear: censorship.] There is European censorship of atrocities [unclear: e] British Army in Northern Ireland." I [unclear: pres- m] - and he finally admitted the British [unclear: mem- ip] of the EEC was too important a matter [unclear: prejudiced] by such trivialites as the truth."

[unclear: a] Adam (in the New Statesman article [unclear: quo- ove)] made the same point as Dowling rather [unclear: when] she wrote: "It is the natural reaction [unclear: e] British press, in colonial situations, to [unclear: cre-] oversimplified contrast between our [unclear: good] boys and their fanatical terrorists." It [unclear: app- o] me that Jack Dowling and Corinna Adams [unclear: analysed] the environment from which [unclear: so] distorted and erroneous reporting is [unclear: prod-] rather well. The situation in Northern [unclear: Ire- s] a colonial situation— the British [unclear: Govern-] recognised that when it recently re-imposed [unclear: rule] from Westminster - and Dowling's [unclear: his- il] examples indicate that British journalists [unclear: ot] all that objective when it comes to [unclear: report eir] own colonial wars. There are, of course, [unclear: options], of which the Sunday Times and the [unclear: Statesman] are very good examples.

[unclear: Zealand] is suffering from the same [unclear: misinfor-in] about events in Northern Ireland and the [unclear: nce] indicates that we are suffering a lot [unclear: wor-] than Britain. The process by which New [unclear: nd] dailies get their overseas news is worth [unclear: oning]. The N.Z.P.A. employs a man in the [unclear: ey] office of the Australian Associated Press, whose job is to sort through the news stories he receives and select stories to send to the N.Z.P.A. office in Wellington. Two men are employed in the N.Z.P.A. office in Wellington to select from the material they get from Sydney, stories which are sent out to N.Z. dailies. Finally the newspapers print what they want. The process is therefore highly selective and a good deal of responsibility is placed on those men who select what our papers actually receive.

I am not suggesting that there is any kind of conspiracy at work which gives us so many misleading stories about Northern Ireland. However it would appear that the sources for the N.Z.P.A. - Reuter stories in Northern Ireland are incompetent, especially when compared to the local Irish newspapers fairly consistently since 1969. Surely over a three year period, when it has been shown on many occasions that the I.R.A. were not responsible for deeds they were reported as having committed - such as the destruction of public utilities in Belfast in April 1969 - someone, somewhere along the line from Northern Ireland to New Zealand, would have realised that a lot of blatant mistakes were being made. Surely some journalists in New Zealand have read reports from Northern Ireland, which are different from the reports published here. Even if the Belfast Telegraph is not readily available in New Zealand, the New Statesman certainly is; as is the Sunday Times. New Zealand newspapers - and I have concentrated on the Dominion and the Evening Post because of easy [unclear: acc] accessibility - are still making mistakes. They are [unclear: co] conveying the impression that the I.R.A. is the only 'terrorist' organisation committing atrocities, bombings and killings in Northern Ireland. Constant harping on the I.R.A. has camouflaged the activities of extremist groups such as the U.V.F. In fact, even forgetting that the P.A. reports are often wrong, the reporting of Northern Ireland affairs is sensationalist and lacking any balance, objectivity or analysis beyond a superficial level. The N.Z.P.A. - Reuter reports in the Dominion and the Evening Post on the Scarman Tribunal Report were farcical in their selectivity and simplicity. Of course our newspapers have to be selective in their coverage of Irish affairs; but it is strange that the process of selection has produced such uniform results over a three year period.

The Dominion, Evening Post and N.Z.P.A. might say in their defence that they have only made a few errors of detail in their reports and that in a war situation mistakes are unavoidable. They have made errors of detail; constant errors which can so easily produce false impressions about the situation in Northern Ireland. Our newspapers have so often been wrong or misleading on important issues that their reports about Northern Ireland cannot be taken seriously. I am sure the people who produce our newspapers would not like their products to be though of as a joke. The overseas news we get in New Zealand comes through such a selective process that when one area of news is found to be faulty, the others must come under suspicion as well.

In a war mistakes in press reporting are inevitable. Because of that it is essential that every possible step be taken to avoid error. Hibernia's comments on the Belfast Telegraph when it named that paper the Best Evening Paper of the year in Ireland in January are worth repeating. "The Telegraph" Hibernia said, was "one of the most accurate newspapers in Europe in a situation where a minor error could lead to a riot or a killing." The errors in our newspapers have caused no riots or killings here - they have just mislead a lot of people.

During the Anto-Apartheid Conference here in March, I was sitting next to a reporter from the Post. He asked me about the African National Congress - Was it a bomb-throwing, destructive organisation? I tried to explain that after 50 years of non-violent protest having made no impression on the white minority in South Africa, the A.N.C. had been forced to adopt the path of armed struggle. Trying to make the point clearer, I told him that like the situation in Ireland, we received a lot of misinformation in New Zealand about the A.N.C. He rather angrily told me that New Zealanders got the facts about Ireland and went back to writing his story on the Conference.

Over two years ago, on February 4 1970, the Belfast Telegraph wrote in an editorial on the terror bombing; "Once upon a time every bomb outrage in Northern Ireland was automatically attributed to the I.R.A. It was universally acknowledged as a selfdefeating, cowardly form of protest which did more to unite people in opposition to terrorism than to advance the anti-partitionist cause. "Today, the picture is very different. Four blasts in Belfast since the New Year are plainly the work of extremists on the other side of the fence, demonstrating in a crude, criminal and equally senseless way against the forces of moderation and fair play."

It seems that two years after that was written, New Zealand newspapers have not yet got the message.

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