Northern Ireland

1981: Fighting Britain's Guantanamo

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Twenty five years ago Irish Republicans in British jails were fighting for the right to be considered political prisoners. Brutalised and abused they turned to a weapon of last resort, a hunger strike. Simon Basketter tells the story of their struggle.

The Guantanamo Bay prison camp - where orange jump-suited prisoners lie caged, blindfolded and held without trial - sums up the brutality of the "war on terror". Yet this regime has failed to crush the spirit of resistance among the detained. Their hunger strikes so terrified those who control the camp that they described them as unfair, an act of "asymmetric warfare". Most British politicians, even those who are still pro-war, have been forced to call for Guantanamo's closure, suggesting it is an aberration that would not occur under any British command.

A Glittering Career Launched with a Cover-Up

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I wonder if Sir Michael Jackson permitted himself a wry smile about atrocities as he retired last month as Chief of the General Staff.

Stepping down after three years, Jackson's mind may have drifted back to the Bogside and Bloody Sunday - the day he began the rise through the ranks that was to take him to the top.

The exposure of Jackson as the man who masterminded the cover-up of the Derry massacre has never hit the headlines. It appears to have gone unmentioned in any of the biographical pieces which marked his retirement. But it may figure prominently in the long-delayed report of the Bloody Sunday inquiry under Lord Saville. If it doesn't, people in Derry will draw certain conclusions about Saville.

Interview of the Month: Reliving the War in an Irish Town

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Journalist and playwright Richard Norton Taylor tells Pat Stack about his dramatisation of the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

On the face of it, inquiries seem unlikely settings for dramas, but they've worked very well for you. What drew you to the idea?

Nicholas Kent, a committed director at the Tricycle theatre, first had the idea when I was covering the Scott arms to Iraq inquiry. Writing a few hundred words one day, and then a few hundred more a couple of days later, was getting disjointed. We thought we'd put it all together into one package with an audience, and it would lead to a much greater understanding of the whole thing.

What attracted you to the Bloody Sunday inquiry?

Northern Ireland: A Movement Going Nowhere Fast

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The IRA's recent withdrawal of their offer to put their arms 'beyond use' might have been expected to cause widespread panic about the future of the peace process. Yet after some initial alarm, there is a feeling of 'business as usual' or rather a lack of business.

All the initial enthusiasm for the peace process has waned and been replaced by a frustrating impasse. There is no doubt that the various shades of Ulster Unionists, all too often assisted by the acquiescence of the British government, have been mainly responsible for this.

David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party, while apparently in favour of the process, continually placed obstacles and barriers to progress. As Sinn Fein and the IRA either conformed or attempted to compromise in the face of their intransigence, Trimble kept inventing new barriers and demands.

Five Kids from Derry

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Review of 'Teenage Kicks - The Story of The Undertones'

Music lover and DJ extraordinaire John Peel, who died last year, had one pop song that he regarded above all others. At his personal request it was played at his funeral, and its opening line ('Teenage dreams, so hard to beat') is inscribed on his gravestone. The song is 'Teenage Kicks', the first single released by the Undertones.

Roll Out the Barrel

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Torture in Iraq echoes the brutal British record in Northern Ireland.

The events of the last few weeks in Iraq have been shameful, appalling and tragic, but are a complete vindication of the arguments put forward by those of us who thought the war could only lead to untold misery.

Ever since the crowds welcoming the 'forces of liberation' by tearing down statues quickly melted away (and they were always much smaller then the 'sexed up' pictures on the telly presented), it was clear that the occupiers were not being seen as liberators.

Peace at Stake

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Britain's filthy role in Northern Ireland is exposed by the Stakeknife affair.

Tom Lehrer, the brilliant American musical satirist of the 1950s and 1960s, famously announced that he was retiring from satire after the warmongering monster Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When the world was satirising itself in such a way, what was there left for him to say, he asked.

Northern Ireland: State Sponsored Murder

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'A service to be proud of' declares the Police Service of Northern Ireland website. The RUC may have been renamed, but the 'service' this force provides is one of which only sectarian bigots can be proud, as the recent Stevens report concluded.

That collusion existed between Loyalist paramilitaries and the RUC is no surprise to anyone familiar with the British state's role in Ireland, but to read the clipped tones of one of its high ranking officers spelling it out is a revelation.

Trouble and Strike

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Review of 'The Secret History of the IRA', Ed Moloney, Penguin £20 and 'Sinn Fein', Brian Feeney, O'Brian £11.99

These are two very different but equally invaluable books charting the tortured journey of contemporary Irish Republicanism towards constitutional politics. They are particularly illuminating about the transformation of the Provisional IRA from its pursuit of armed struggle against the British presence to ministerial office in the Stormont Assembly following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which at the time of writing has been suspended for the second time in recent years.

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