1970s Ireland was slipping into a police state as human rights for political activists, cultural and language campaigners were disintegrating. Both the British and Irish Governments agreed to secretly implement a joint security policy. But the terminology used and its implementation in the South was to be flexible to accommodate public opinion. Nevertheless, it was equally harsh.
This resulted in, amongst other policies: internment without trial; widespread torture (the Hooded Men, Castlereagh, Heavy Gang); Bloody Sunday, shoot-to-kill policy; bombings (Dublin-Monaghan); state controlled political kidnappings and assassinations; prejudiced non-jury Diplock and Special Criminal Court tribunals; H-Block and Portlaoise Jail hunger strikes; the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Sallins Case frame-ups.
Osgur Breatnach, a human rights activist, journalist and author, was kidnapped by Dublin Gardaí in 1976 and wrongly accused of participation in the 1976 Cork to Dublin mail train robbery, at Sallins, Co. Kildare. He was one of 40 men detained following the robbery, in the biggest round up ordered by any Irish government since WW2. Eleven of the men (including Breatnach) were tortured by members of the Garda Heavy Gang. Such state behaviour was endemic at the time. Breatnach was detained eight consecutive times, over eight consecutive days, before being hospitalised.
After the longest consecutive criminal trials (5) in Irish history, which included controversial issues of perjury and a sleeping judge, three were convicted and sentenced to a total of 33 years. International campaigns resulted in their being found innocent and released from jail in the 1980s. But all Governments refuse an inquiry to investigate the crimes against these men. Instead they have conspired to cover-up the case. But the international campaign for an impartial sworn public inquiry, as dictated by international law, is gaining support from across society, in Ireland and abroad.
Osgur Breatnach resigned from the IRSP in 1983. A free-lance journalist, author, and poet, he continues to campaign for human rights.