Treatment of hooded men was ‘clear use of torture’, Taoiseach says

UK ruling on PSNI decision to drop investigation is a vindication for campaigners, Martin says

The treatment of the "hooded men" was a "clear use of torture" and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was wrong to drop an investigation into it, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin’s comments came after the UK supreme court ruled that the 2014 decision to discontinue an investigation into allegations of controversial interrogation techniques against the hooded men was unlawful.

Speaking about the ruling, the Taoiseach told journalists in Brussels: "It's a vindication of the campaign of the hooded men.

"There should have been an investigation much, much earlier on, in what was clear use of torture and an abuse of the basic human rights of those people," Mr Martin said.


The 14 hooded men were detained without trial by the British army in Northern Ireland in 1971 and were subjected to treatment that judges have said would be considered torture if perpetrated today.

This included being hooded, deprived of sleep, food and water, put into stress positions and forced to listen to white noise. The men have also said that they were beaten and thrown from helicopters, while they hovered not far from the ground but thought they were high in the air and would die.

"Internment itself was wrong, it shouldn't have happened at the time, and did an awful lot of damage to individuals and to society in Northern Ireland, " Mr Martin said. "We know that the earlier that investigations and closure can be brought to such injustice the better all round. So I welcome that court decision."


The Taoiseach also said there was need for "full clarity" on the issue of collusion, following the award of £1.5 million in damages to victims of the Miami Showband massacre to settle claims over suspected British state collusion with the loyalist perpetrators.

“That was an appalling murder of members of an iconic showband. Very, very sordid details emerged in terms of what was envisaged there, and the level of collusion, and there needs to be full clarity.

“Also in terms of other atrocities as well, in terms of the atrocities committed by paramilitaries, republican paramilitaries and loyalist paramilitaries, there should be proper attempts made by those organisations to bring closure to families.

“We saw again the trauma that can be visited upon those families of victims of people who were murdered in the past by a failure to bring closure and a failure to atone and to apologise to people for wrong that was perpetrated upon their loved ones and I think people have waited far, far too long for basic information sharing and basic closure with these issues.”

The Miami Showband was one of Ireland's most popular cabaret acts in 1975 when its members were stopped travelling home from a gig by a fake army patrol of members of the Ulster Defence Regiment infantry and Ulster Volunteer Force paramilitary group in Co Down.

The perpetrators attempted to hide a bomb on the band's tour bus, which exploded prematurely. Lead singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy were then shot, while band members Des McAlea and Stephen Travers were injured, but survived.

A report by the Historical Enquiries Team in 2011 raised concerns around the involvement of a Special Branch agent in then-police force the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Survivors and relatives of those killed reached a resolution in their legal actions against the ministry of defence and the PSNI, which were announced at the Belfast High Court on Monday.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times