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T H E

NAI RAC AFFAIR

Mtcheal O Curnneagdln

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THE NAIRAC AFFAIR

Mfcheil O

Culnneagdln

First published November 1981

@ Mice5l 6 Cuinneaghain

Furthen copies available fronn:

MIEEAL 6 CUINNEAGHAIN,

Tanatallon, Co. Donegal, lreland.

Fublisked bY :- Mtct4EAL c cu,AlNEAGt'tAtN, Tanatallon, co. Donegal, lreland.

PRINTED IN THE PRCII/INCE OF {-Id-STER. 'R€'-AND.

2

A brief

North l_outh in the

examination of sonre of

period

1g7O

the 2Znd Special Air Service

caused untold suffering on both

the events in South ArmaEh and

- 1977 involving

Captain l,.,,lalrac of

(SAS) ReEirnent. This sides of the irrsh Border.

Reginrnent

The unjust conviction

Armagh,

Nairac

of two young catholic

for murder, bears

nnen,

from

sorth

tesiimony to the evi! infruence

Thisevirrpp"r* to

North and South.

and his feilow sAS *"n.

of captain

every sector of the legal pro"u*

have permeated

J

THANKS

Two people who encouraged me in the slow painstaking task of exposing the injustices in the trial of John Anthony MeCooey and

story

Liam Townson had passed to their eternal reward before this

was finished. They were Frank Maguire, Mp. who died in March 1981, and who helped me in every way open to a Member of

Parliament, and my mother, lsobella Cunningham who died in June 1981 and who by her prayers and encouragement helped me to persevere when things looked impossible.

Most of those who helped during my research requested thattheir"

names should not be published. With the exception of signed

statements I have respected these requests. Toeach and every one I

say:

Go Raibh Mile Mait Agat.

CONTENTS

r)"li

John Anthony McCobey

Rgply to Mr. Alison, M.p

"'

Background to McCooey,s arrest

Peter Cleary

;:

The Nairac/Townson episode

The fatal night

Thomas Patrick euinn

Birth of a conspiracy

Arrest and Trial of Liam Townson The Heavy Gang ?

Mr. Donal Carroll

Defence submission over-ruled Examination of Ruling

Townson's evidence

A Verbal Statement

Ballistic and Forensic Evidence

The Verdict

Examination of verdict

Page

6

15

23

25

33

36

43

49

51

54

59

64

67

78

79

82

88

INTRODUCTION

county of lntrigue,,, t

spent some time in the border area between Dundalk and

while there I was told that a young man, Liam Townson, had been

convicted for the murder of captain Nairac and that

promised

in that deed. I was asked to help clear his good name and

During research for my book "Monaghan

Newry.

he had no part

to work on his case after publication of the work in hand.

My first research, for the Townson case, was

on newspaper

reports of his trial, and lmust admit that lhad immediate doubts about his innocence. once I began work on the ground, my doubts

soon faded. The

ordinary decent peopre of the district in which

and worked soon convinced me of the

committed against him. This crime was

people of lreland, in the Special

did the rea$

Townson was reared enormity of the crime

committed, in the name of the

criminal court, Green street, Dublin. Not alone

Anthony Mccooey for

becarne apparent to rne. Also the

injustice in the Mccooey conviction does rnuch to

significance of the injustice inherent inr Townson's conviction

beconre obvious, but

the hidden evil behind the trial of John

the Tullyvallen orange Hall rnunders,

unfolding of the intrigue and

explain and

expose those responsible for the present evil in our land.

The names oi men who signed

statennents or alleged statements

persons

included in those non-de-plumes

while in police custody, and the names of

atleged staternents, have been omitted and

inserted. ctherwise the extracts used are exact copies of the

originals.

"Every human being

has inalienabte rights that must be

community - ethnic, historical,

respected. Each human

cultural or religious - has rights which rnust be re-

spectec" Peace is threatened

every

time one of these

rights is violated. The maral law, guardian of human

rights, protector of the dignity of man, cannot be set

aside by any person or group, or by the sfafe itself, for

any cause, nat even for security sr in the interesfs of law

and order. The law of

God sfands in judgement over all

as inlustice exisfs in any of the

dignity of the human

person,

'reasans of Sfate. As long

areas that tauch upon the

be it in the political, social or economic field, be it in tke

cultural or religious

sphere, true peace wiil notexisf. The

ca{/ses of inequalifies must be identified through a

courageous and obiective

eliminafed so that every person can

the f ull rneasure of his or her humanity.,'

evaluation, and they must be

develop and grow in

- Pope John Paul il at Drogheda 2gth September 197g.

.x;f

JOHN ANTHONy McCOOEY

. D.urilg the autumn of 1g7g I published a book, ,,Monaghan county of

lntrigue'i in which t-he

emphasis

was on events in the plresent troubles

chapter dealt with a

County Armagh

having a Monaghan flavour.,The last

youth,

Tullyvallen

mentioned his

John Anthony

orange Hall

conviction and they

nothing to do with the event. ncross the

county Armagh,

whereabouts on

The chapter'on

y.ere such that grave

The then Member of parriament for

Frank Maguire M.P.,

made copies of

agencies in the hope that

Mccooey, who had been convicted for the five

murders.

Many people

I

met in

Monaghan

were adamant that Mccooey nao

Borde, in in" crirv'riri"'"'lrea ot

Mccooey,s

I was told the same thifg,"no giren detaili of

the fatar night. arr we/e"d;;;;fi

of his innoc"n"e.

McCooey OiO not go into minute detail but the contents

doubt was

cast on the evidence presented at his trial.

Fermanagh/soutn the ooo[ available

ryrone, the late

io gor"rnment

the authorities would look into the ma-tter. He was

1g80, he sent the last

State, Mr. Atkins Mp; asXing him to review the

revelations in-tne chapter. lt was

ol State,

through nis Minister ot

met by stoney silence and indifference. ln February

chapter to the Secretary of

sentence on McCooey in the li_ght of the

some eight weeks before the Secretary

State, Mr. Michael Alison, replied. The letter went:_

John Anthony McCooey

Minisler oJ State

Frarrk Maguire Esq MP

Mail Street

I,ISNASTXA

Co Fernanagh

NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE STORMONT CASTLE

BELFAST BT4 3ST Tel. Belfast (oz3z) o3orr

Telex 74272

ll

April 1!Bo

0 'l-**k

You wrote to the secretary 'of state on 12

February enclosing a copy

"Monaghan, copnty of

of a cirapter from Mr Michael- cunninghamts book

Intrigue".

The chapter is about the case of Hr John Anthony McCooey,

who at the Belfast

to-life imprisonment for his part il the Tulryvarlen orange Ha11 murders. You asked the secretary of state to enquire into the circr:mstances of that conviction, and. that enquiries shoul-d be mad.e into the particular allegation that Mr rlccooey had. been given prepared, farse statements to sign. r am sorry that r have not replied. to your letter before now, but I wanted- to take time to study the transcri-pt of the judgment given by the trial jud.ge before he

passed sentence.

City Commission on 10 November 19?7 was sentenced"

I note fron the transcript

that at the trial,

Counsel for the accused

did not seek to suggest thatthe statements on which the prosecution's

case }argely rested had been made as a result of torture, or inhpman or d,egrad.ing treatment. Ind.eed. he specifically stated, that no such allegation was being made, arrd asked no question of any witness; there was no appeal against arry of the convictions.

rn Mr cunningham's book it

statement about the Tu11yva1len Orange Ha11 nurd.ers

is alteged that Mr Mccooey signed. the

after a long period.

corcerned.

without sleep d.uring whi-ch he was beaten by the police officers

It

defence because he feared that anyone who testified

be in dan.ger; there is also a claim that l{r McCooey was elsewhere at

is also alleged thd the prisoner d.ecid.ed to cal-l- no witnesses in his

on his behalf would

the time of the Orange HaIl ki1li:rgs.

rn any crimiaal triar.

it

is

for

the d.efence to d.ecide how their

of the case should be conducted

availabr-e, which

sid.e

r am afraid that on the inforuati-on

grounds on which

in taking any action as

or the sentences imposed on him.

are produced. which support the

tine of the Turlyvallen

--u

amounts to no more than a seri-es of unsubstantiated

written

by someone who appea_rs

to

circumstances, r can find" no

justified.

have ha. no

allegations in a book

personal knowredge of the

the secretary of state would be

regard's argr of Mr Mccooey's convictions

rf,

however' any statement or statements

'at-tG

clai-m that Mr Mccooey was ersewhere

murders, f would take steps to have enquiries made.

At the end of the chapter seri-ous allegations about

where he is taking catesorv sratus.

on Mr Mccooey,s case

}{r cunningham makes some

ir-l-treatment of Mr Mccooey at Maze prison,

agai_nst the refusal of

special

io

,ry

part in the protest

r

am satisfied. that theru i_" oo-t;;;;";;";l.ru"

of, these complaints.

\wu*)ixu*,ly

y!,Mr,J^

MTCHAEL ALTSON

Mr Maguire MP passed the reply on to me with a kind offer to give me all

possible assistance in

having the truth established and expbsed. Mr.

Alison explained. the eight-week {elay was due to his studying the

judgement given

by the trial judge. Theie was nothing

judgement as an extract shows.

the bo6k which (the Judge's)

in

nHis

judgement, on fire

questioned the

pronouncements were of a politcal nature, but his

evidence presented, was predictable and in accordance with N.l. law" There was criticism of the manner in which defence performed and of the

police and prison officials for their ill-treatment bf

the prisoner.

The chapter on McCooey was written to show how an innocent

convicted for murders and of the type of treatment he received in

man was

Long

Kesh camp. The most strident remark made in Mr. Alison's letter dealt with

my claim that McCooey had been given savage beatings while in prison,

10

and his "l am satisfied that there is not truth whatever in any of these complaints" demands answering. The hospital records of patients are not

available to me but I stand over my statement that McCooey was given a

savage beating by named prison officers in

planned visit to the prison by the Catholic bishop of Derry, Dr. Edward

that McCooey

nt igh! have

The Bishop did

because the victim was at an outside hospital with injuries

Long Kesh a few days before a

McCooey.

Daly. Prisoners who saw and heard the beating were afraid

for

written

been fatally injured and requested that Dr. Daly visit

request a visit to him, but his request was not granted

and was too ill

visitors. On returning to prison from the hospital McCooey filed a

complaint against named'"screws", and his case was heard

by a

found against McCooey and inflicted further

allegations." I stand over my statement of

prison officers - and

"visiting committee." They

punishment for his "baseless

fact -

have no fear of the outcome of any enquiry carried out by a group from

McCooey was the victim of brutal assaults by

outside the United Kingdom into the entire episode. While this ilt-

treatment is serious, it is nothing

compared to the conspiracy to pervert

the course of justice so evident right through the entire Mciooey case.

ln dismissing the contents of the case made for Mccooey in "Monaghan,

county of lntrigue," Mr. Allison wrote

information

"l am afraid tnat on the

availab-le, which amounts to no more than a series of

unsubstantiated allegations in a book written by someone who

have no personal

on which

appears to

knowledge of the circumstances, I can find no grounds

be justified in taking action

.". These words were

gave an insight into the treatment which I might

(it) would

a personal slur on me and

expect from the N.l. Office.

REPLY Tg MR. ALISON, M.P.

The last few days of

August 1975 and the first days of September were,

days

not easily forgotten. Vincent McCooey

Anthony McCooey, suffered a heait

removed to Monaghan County

His remains were held in the

for the McCooey family circle,

of Dromore, Castleblaney, an uncle of

attack on saturday 30th August and was

Hospital. He died the following morning.

the removal was

hospital pending a decision about a post mortem, and were not removed

until shortly after six o'clock on

who had driven his widowed

Monday evening. Among those present at

John Anthony McCooey

mother, sisters and brothers,

to the hospital from .their home on the

given by police officers at

Armagh-Monaghan border. The evidence

McCooey's trial

the same time on that day.

claimed instead that he was in a Dundalk public house at

With very little effort the statements which

follow could have been obtained by McCooey's lawyers, and most of those

who made the statements were prepared to go to Belfast and

person. Some of them did in fact go but were not called as witnessei Oy

testify

in

the defence.

statement made by

Mrs Mary Mccooey,

mother of the accused

'_on

cullyhanna, at about five p.m. The car.was driven

lvlonday, th.e 1st september 197s, I left home at Drumlougher,

-

by my son Anthiony.

Also in the car were the rest of the family. We arrived in Monaghan about O

p"m. and went to the

county

Hospital. Anthony drove th-e car in the

Castleblaney. After leaving

the

time at ihe wake-houie in

cortege from Monaghan to the church in

church we went home calling lor a short

11

Dromore. Anthony had

some tea and left lor McKeevers of Dorsey about

I o'clock. Signed Mary McCooey.

Statement made by

Co.

Mrs Mauroen McCooey of Dromore, Casilebtaney,

that John Anthony McCooey drove the third

Monaghan. "l confirm

cir

in the funeral

castleblaney, for

cortege from

Monaghan Hospital to St. Mary's Church,

Mass on Monday 1st september '75."

deceased).

cullyhanna, co. Armagh.

the arrival of the

carragher. 12-6-g0.

Monaghan

I also saw

the 7.30 p.m.

Signed Maureen McOooey (Widow of

statement of Peter J. carragher of Anamara,

"l was in

hearse and inside in the church".

Statement of Gene Cumiskey

of

Castleblaney on Monday 1st September for

signed

Peter J.

funeral of Vincent McCooey of Dromore, Castleblaney. tt was about 7 p.m.

when it arrived in

Castleblaney and I saw Anthony McOooey beside the

of Monaghan. "lwas present at

cortege.

County Hospital on Monday 1st September 1975 for the removal oi tne

Castleblaney. I saw Anthony

remains

McCooey at the hospital and saw him drive off in the

him at the

Vincent McOooey of Dromore,

made by

church in Castleblaney when the coffin was being taken into the

Gene

Cumisky.

Brigid Flanagan of

of

1st

Bree, casileblaney, co.

1pat1,

september 1975 my husband

arriving

church." Signed

statement

Mor,aghan. "on the evening

mother and myself attended the funeral of my brother

(Vincent McCooey).

there

before 6 p.m.; there I saw Anthony Mccooey among the mourners.We left

the hospital and followed the coriege to st:

My husband drove our car to Monaghan County Hospital

for Mass. About half a mile from the church

relatives and friends walking after the hearse.

remainder of the way." Signed B. Flanagan.

statement of Patrick J. Flanagan of Bree,

I

Mary'Jchurch, Casfleblaney

my husband joined many

then drove the car the

casileblaney. "l went to the

hospital on Monday 1st September 1975 for the removal of the remains of

my brother-in-law Vincent McCooey, arriving there before 6 p.m. At the

hospital I was beside the

motor-hearse when the coffin was put into it.

me and I asked him how many passengers

of themselves. The cortege left soon itter

and a large number got out of

prayers

Anthony McCooey was beside

he had, and he said four or five

six, and when it came to 'Blaney it stopped

the cars and walked the last half mile or so to the church. After thl

I went to the wake-house arriving

like a drink or a cup of tea. I asked him to get me tea, which he did. I did

before eight. Anthony asked me would I

not see him again that night. The house was soon crowded and

so I went out to my car

eleven and said it was time to

very warm,

where I fell asleep. My wife wakened mb about

lights

go home. On the way home I observed

and helicopters in the sky to

must be trouble over there. lt was on'the News the next

my right and I passed a remark that there

morning that I

heard why all the activities were going on." signed patrick

From these statements it is clearly

J. Flanagan.

established that Anthony Mc6ooey

the

at the Church of St. Mary

was at the removal of the remains from

some confusion about the times different mouiners arrived at the wake-

rosary while others said he

Monaghan Hospita!. There was

house. Some mentioned the priest saying

said Mass. The custom of the arrival of the coffin

in the evening is to

say the rosary. on the first Monday of each month

there is also an evening Mass at 7.30 for members of the Sacred Heart

Confraternity. On the night in question some

Mass was to follow, left the church when the priest went into the sacristy

mourners, not aware that a

12

to vest. This explains the arrival of some mourners at the wake-house shortly after 7.30 p.m.

For

the next four hours or so the whereabouts

of Anthony McOooey

were not as stated in the "Book of evidence." After leaving the house in Dromore he went home where his mother got out of the car. He went to

of Cullyhanna,

co. Armagh -

Anthony McCooey blew the

Cullyhanna and I take up the statement of Peter Keenan

house after coming home from work when

horn of his car. I

"on Monday night the 1st september lgrs t wai in the

went out and got into the car. we were going to

McKeevers, as we always did on a Monday night, to discuss the weekend.

When we arrived at McKeevers it was about 8 p.m.; rnost of the McKeevers

weekend for a while, and then a game

were there. We sat talking

about the

of football got started in the garden. we all went out and joined in, but

Anthony never played football. He stood talking

door of the house. They then went into the house, and after a while Mrs

McKeever called the rest of us in for tea.

About 1 1.30 p.m. Anthony said he was going to his late uncle's house as he wanted to make an appearance at the wake-house. Peter McKeever told

us to hold on and hear the Late Night

stunned to silence when we heard about the murders in the Orange Hall.

The first to speak was Anthony; he said there would be reprisals and it

living in desolate areas, who

would suffer. After discussing the murders we left McKeevers at 12.05 or

so. we expected to be stopped at army or police check-points, but there

would be the likes of him anil his mother,

News, which we did. Everyone was

to Peter McKeever at the

were none. we were surprised. He

dropped me off

at the gate to the house, Keenan.

and went on to the wake-house." Signed peter

A statement made by Peter McKeever of Drumalt Road, Dorsey,

Newtownhamilton,

made by Peter Keenan. "on Monday night 1st september 1g7s Anthony

p.m. approx.

Co. Arrhagh, on behalf of his family supports the one

Mccooey

Present in the house were myself, my wife, my sons patiick, p'eadar,

and Peter Keenan came to visit my house at g

Bernard and

Michael, also my married daughter Eileen and her husband

My

wife made tea around 11 o-'clock and we

Seamus Traynor of Crossmaglen. The boys were playing football and

weight-lifting in the garden.

talked about Vincey Mccooey's death (Anthony's uncle). Anthony and

Peter Keenan were on their way out when the 11.45 news headlines tbtO ot

the Tullyvallen Orange l''lall deaths.

deaths. Anthony and Peter left about 12.15 a.m."

They stayed on and talked about the

Signed peter McKeever.

wake-house, arriving

After dropping Keenan the accused went to the

around 12.30 and one of the first people he saw was Gabriel McCole-.

Gabriel was the son of a member of the Gardai in

Castleblaney, and

remembers seeing Anthony in the house. Time has eroded some of the

details of the night but he remains in no doubt that the accused was there.

Anthony McCooey was and is innocent is

The widespread belief that

held by more than his Catholic

neighbours in the border area in which he

Billy

McBride, a member of the local

had lost

He had

lraciously.

-batfle.

He

lived. During my research I visited

Protestant community, and he received me most

his father-in-law and brother-in-law in the Orange Hall gun

been to the wake house on the

Monday night

but had left before Anthony

McCooey had returned. He was aware that Anthony had been at th6

removal of the remains from the hospital and wished me every success in

13

my efforts to clear Anthony's name and to establish thp truth. I deeply

appreciate

'ine

his kindness.

statements published in these pages are my answer to Mr. Alisea M.P. I trust that he or his successor in the Northern lreland Otfice will now

have the courage and integrity

calumniously

prison.

ln the tight

with the

defence team to present

fatal night was; at first

to

bring to iustice those who so

conspired to have

of these disclosures the arrest and changing of McCooey

John Anthony McOooey committed to

his

Orange Hall killings takes some explaining. The failure of

sight,

strange

and possibly

:close

any evidence of their clients whereabouts on the

to crimina!

negligence. ln any ordinary Court such a comment would probably be

justified

and correct. The

case was not heard in an ordinary Court but, in a

Diplock Court, where there is one Judge and rto

As

with the Special

up by

Criminal Gourt

Belfast were set

in

[r,lorthern

io

people would

iury.

Dublin, the

Diplock Courts in

no jury of

politicians, to get convictions which

countenance. The rules of evidence were altered

make it virtually impossible to successfully

police

rebut police evidence. ln

evidence consisted in the main

of statements alleged to have been made by the accused while in

in order

the period under review 1976/77

(800/0)

police custody. The alleged

to be

statements did not

have to be signed

accepted by the Judge.

a lost cause, even when

injuries

Defence lawyers were, in most cases,

their clients were innocent. Bruise marks

evidence even where there

fighting

oi other

did not invalidate the police

the injuries

were inflicted

was proof that

necessary

by the interrogaters. lt was

to prove torture before their case could have

for the defence

any

Convention of Human Rights and as such had some standing

Diplock

effect. Torture was considered to be in violation of the European

in

the

Court. Evidence for defence, sometimes up to a dozen witnesses

police

custodY.

of Diplock Courts the

as

being

defence strategy ot

the lesser of two evils, can be

condoned. The failure to call any

case and the fail$re to cross examine

teitifying that the accused was elsewhere at the time of the offence, did

standing as one unsigned statement alleged to have

been made while in

not have the same

Given the track record

their client's

accepting

understood but not, in my opinion,

guilt,

evidence to rebutt the prosecution

police witnesses may have helped to reduce the sentence from 20 or 30

t.e.14/15 years. lt also ensured that McCooey had no

of appeal and that the lying evidence of police officers went into the

protect the

years

right

Court

to one of life,

records unchallenged.

have,

Such defence strategy

helpt to

evil men who

in Diplock Courts and

in lnterrogation

Centres,

conspired top pervert the course of iustice. Having spoken to men who

shared a cell with McCooey

in prison, I am convinced that had the defence

lawyers called the