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the Sallins Case

Time, after fifty years, for Justice and Truth on Sallins

Holroyd  was  targeted  by  the  British Government  when  he  ‘went  native,’ disagreeing with illegal counter-insurgency operations by Nairac and others, including assassinations.

He was cashiered and framed, and illegally institutionalised. Years later it emerged state-concocted allegations from Holroyd’s wife and a British Army doctor that led to his institutionalisation were denied by both.

An army doctor also confirmed Holroyd’s full health at the time and that he was ordered to submit the false medical. Holroyd is currently fighting the British state for pension rights.

Included in the information Holroyd accepted from Garvey were 150 files detailing membership profiles of Irish citizens: a legal political organisation, the IRSP, its members, their families, social friends and acquaintances and even fellow workers amounting to thousands of files – “a suitcase full”, he told Judge Henry Barron’s Dublin-Monaghan Bombing Inquiry.

Remembering the securocrat takeover of the State in the 1970s


This article was first published In Village Magazine 

As Fair Trials International joins every non-government human rights organisation on the island of Ireland to demand an independent public inquiry into the Sallins Case, the Irish government continues to refuse it. Their fear is that the State’s greatest secrets will come under the microscope, laying bare shockingly egregious corruption.

In that refusal they are prepared to circumvent the Irish Constitution and international law and to fail to protect Irish citizens and their rights to freedom of political expression, to fair trials, to freedom from torture, and to the right to Truth.

In this case the cover-up is worse than the crime.

            The State, fearful of radical organisations, conducted all-out propaganda warfare      against them in the 1970s.

The British and Irish governments during the time of the coalition of Liam Cosgrave’s Fine Gael and Brendan Corish’s Labour (1973-1977) adopted a joint ‘security’ policy against the IRA and Sinn Féin, the Irish National Liberation Army, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, and all other radical organisations in the 1970s, on both sides of the Irish border. Much of it was illegal. All of it was based on the all-out-war strategy published in ‘Low Intensity Operations’ by General Sir Frank Edward Kitson, GBE, KCB, MC & Bar, DL, among other things an operational commander in Belfast, 1970–2.

Kitson’s policy involved both governments employing all their resources and institutions, the media, secret services, the law, the police, the courts, jails, the army, against their mutual enemy.

Where this war ran contrary to the law, information was supressed, re-interpreted with misinformation, or conducted in secret or with ‘suitable deniability’. It necessitated censorship, lying under oath, torture, illegal bugging, and extortion, lies to Parliament and the Dáil, kidnapping, internment, jailings, killings, and assassinations, on both sides of the Irish border. It also involved a sustained campaign of misinformation and misinterpretations of news events.

MI6 Spymaster

Planned the Garda Heavy Gang: British Prime Minister James Callaghan, Labour leader Brendan Corish, and Irish Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, FG.

MI6 Captain Fred Holroyd slipped across the Irish border in 1975, the start of his new role as spymaster to his nest of agents in the Garda. He was on a review tour commencing with his top agent, Garda Commissioner Ned Garvey.

Ironically some 40 years later Holroyd and I would share the same solicitor, both of us demanding justice from our respective states.

Garda Commissioner Ned Garvey was run as an MI6 agent by Captain Fred Holroyd.
Chief Superintendent John Courtney (centre) ran the Heavy Gang.

'I was an obvious target'

Ned 'Buffalo' Ryan arrests Osgur Breatnach, Editor Starry Plough, immediately after a High Court ordered his release.

A file on me was among them.

I was editor of the IRSP’s Starry Plough newspaper at the time *.

The plan, hatched together by MI6 and the Irish State, to isolate, discredit, and smash the IRSP was in operation by then.

The government feared the potential of this new socialist and all-Ireland organisation and its campaign- promoting a United Ireland, for sharing economic wealth, for an inclusive Peace Process, and for the implementation of universal human rights.

The IRSP’s composition of of community and trade unionist activists embedded in local communities in most Irish major cities, and its potential for growth, was deeply concerning., particularly the party’s involvement in electoral politics- without the traditional republican abstentionist policy.

As many crimes, including robberies, were wrongly blamed on the IRSP and an associated fictional notion of an overlapping military wing (the INLA), members were arrested to feed false media narratives. But a hoped-for coup de grace was on the way.

In the North the use of ‘Supergrass’ and ‘informant’ witnesses was controversial. It was unlikely to be accepted in the republic south of the border. Internment, considered in 1971, was off the table for the same reason.

Supergrass trials led to 3,000 years jail time before being discredited and abolished.

The State needed a Sallins

What was needed for the State to smash the IRSP was a major criminal event followed by irrefutable ‘evidence’ of IRSP involvement from an acceptable Supergrass. Both had to be, and were, manufactured.

The Sallins Mail Train robbery of March 31, 1976, where over £300,000 was stolen from the Cork-Dublin train, at the time known to have been carried out by the IRA (which acknowledged it years later) provided the ‘event’. Chief inspector Ned Ryan provided the ‘irrefutable’ Supergrass evidence- — a list of IRSP names provided to a Dublin Castle investigation conference. His small list grew to some 18 and then 30 by the time the conference was over.

Snatch squads were sent off to arrest them. In the event, some 40 members, their families, friends, and associates were detained. It was the largest round up of suspects since WWII.

I was kidnapped, illegally detained for three days and nights, denied access to a solicitor, abused, assaulted, battered, and tortured by Garvey’s hand -picked Heavy Gang until “evidence” was produced.

That evidence was an untrue Garda-concocted statement signed by me.

It was enough to convict me in the Special Criminal Court, after my fifth trial.

The court was devoid of justice and, at times, even a judge that was awake, before he died leading to a retrial. Along with the following trial that sentenced me to 12 years I was before courts for 108 days, breaking another record — that of the longest criminal trial in Irish history.

Some of the many campaign posters over the years.

After embarrassing, hard-won concessions down the years by the Sallins Men the State is digging in again.

Now, 47 years later, the case is breaking another record — that of the longest-running criminal case in Irish history.

The campaign demanding a public inquiry is now supported by all relevant non-government human rights organisation and the global criminal justice watchdog Fair Trials International.

A recent RTE programme on the Heavy Gang Crimes and Confessions attracted in excess of 40% of the viewing public.

Kevin Winters of KRW Law, Liam Herrick of ICCL and Nancy Hollander of Fair Trials International (pictured with Jodie Foster who played her in The Mauritanian).

Public Inquiry

Among the citizens calling for an inquiry across a spectrum of community, political, trade-union and supporters are even a number of ex-Irish presidents.

Imminent is a formal Petition to the Minister for Justice for a public inquiry, which if ignored, will strengthen the campaign’s journey to the European Court of Human Rights. It is expected that TDs will come together in the next few months to support such an inquiry.

The State’s refusal to hold an inquiry amounts to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment of the Sallins Men.

Cathal O Gorman (Amnesty International), Liam Herrick (Irish Council for Civil Liberties) Kevin Winters (KRW LAW) and Sallins Men Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Oisin McNally (for Brian McNally), Michael Barret at a press conference calling for an independent public inquiry, as dictated by United Nations declarations against torture.

Solicitor for many of the British Government’s/Scappaticci murder victims (and Holroyd), Kevin Winters of KRW LAW said that the Sallins Men he represents; Brian McNally, Nicky Kelly, John Fitzpatrick, Michael Barrett, Michael Plunket (RIP) and I, were now elderly and vulnerable.

Our lives were irrevocably changed by what happened following our wrongful arrests and prosecutions for the Sallins Train Robbery. Winters has noted: “The Irish State has systematically failed to address their ill-treatment and the failure of the systems which enabled this treatment to occur. Financial compensation does not equate to truth, justice, and accountability which the Sallins Men demand on their own behalf and on behalf of wider Irish society”.

*While I was a founder member of the IRSP in Dec 1975, I resigned in 1982 as the party moved to incorporate itself into an alliance with a military organisation, the Irish National Liberation Army. The alliance is known as the Republican Socialist Movement. Up until then the IRSP was a fully independent organisation according to its constitution without connection to any other organisation or armed group. I also believed that the party had by then been heavily and irrevocably infiltrated by the Irish and British states with agents provocateurs , and that consequently it was headed for political isolation. Time has proved me right. The IRSP’s inaugural political platform was long ago hoovered up by Sinn Féin.

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