A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern IrelandBook - 2019
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“Outbreeding Unionists may be an enjoyable pastime for those who have the energy,” Adams once remarked. “But it hardly amounts to a political strategy.”
How will the truth of what really happened during the Troubles ever come out, he asked, if the authorities file murder charges against anyone who has the nerve to talk about it?
The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss once observed that, “for the majority of the human species, and for tens of thousands of years, the idea that humanity includes every human being on the face of the earth does not exist at all. The designation stops at the border of each tribe...
Fearful, perhaps, of his powers of ideological seduction, the Thatcher government imposed a peculiar restriction, “banning” the IRA and Sinn Féin from the airwaves. What this meant in practice was that when Adams appeared on television, British broadcasters were prevented, by law, from transmitting the sound of his voice. His image could be shown, and the content of his speech could be conveyed, but his voice could not be heard. So broadcasters devised a work-around that was practical, if also slightly ridiculous: when Adams appeared on television, an actor would dub his voice.
Humphrey Atkins and Thatcher had been wrong when they speculated that among the ten strikers there must be at least one weak link. After Sands died, another nine followed, starving to death one by one throughout that summer.
A fresh-faced, headstrong young IRA prisoner organized cultural classes. He wrote poetry and would become the official press officer for the republican prisoners. His name was Bobby Sands.
Force-feeding was a controversial practice that had been used on another group of unruly women, the British suffragettes. After being force-fed in Holloway Prison in 1913, one of the suffragettes, Sylvia Pankhurst, called it torture, noting that “infinitely worse than any pain was the sense of degradation.”
A subsequent investigation by the British government found that some of the interrogation techniques used against the so-called Hooded Men constituted criminal assault. But in a controversial 1978 decision, the European Court of Human Rights held that the techniques, while “inhuman and degrading,” did not amount to torture. (In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when the American administration of George W. Bush was fashioning its own “enhanced interrogation” techniques, officials relied explicitly on this decision to justify the use of torture.)
McGuigan and his fellow detainees were stripped naked and examined by a doctor, then subjected to a series of procedure that were classified, in the army’s euphemistic bureaucratese, as “interrogation in depth.” For days, the prisoners were deprived of food, water, and sleep and made to stand for long periods in stress positions, their vision negated by the hoods over their heads. They were also subjected to piercing, high-pitched noises. The British had learned these techniques by studying the experiences of soldiers who were held as prisoners of war by the Nazis or by the North Koreans and the Chinese during the Korean War.
He reportedly quipped, of locking people up without trial, “It’s better than killing them.”
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