Category: Archive

Dublin Report Then and now, wheels of justice turn slowly in Ireland

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By John Kelly

Justice in Ireland often takes a long time to unwind, so long, in fact, that the final unraveling is often all the more appreciated.

William Geary is one man who realizes this more than most. In 1928, while the gaping wound of the Irish Civil War still openly festered, he was a young superintendent in the fledgling Irish police force, still grappling with very active units of the IRA. As in the present, it had not quite gone away, even thought the republicans have been effectively defeated by the forces of the Irish Free State. Everybody, especially those in positions of importance, were suspects in those paranoid days of the infant Irish Republic. There is no longer any serious historical doubt that the Garda commissioner of the time, Gen. Eoin Duffy, held deep-seated Fascist beliefs, epitomized by the Blueshirts, a semi-military gang, initially organized to supervise election meetings that often descended into donnybrooks between free staters and republicans.

Later, many Blueshirts volunteered to fight for the pro-Nazi Franco forces in the Spanish Civil war while republicans flocked together to oppose them.

This was the sort of environment that Geary operated in. As a superintendent, one of his immediate superiors was David Neligan. Another was the father of journalist Tim Pat Coogan.

It was learned in later years that Neligan was the critical "spy in the castle," the main informant for Michael Collins and the man who tipped off the IRA leaders during the War of Independence, saving the lives of many volunteers.

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These men, all leaders of the Garda Siochana, obtained information that convinced them that Supt. Geary was on the payroll of the IRA. As a result, after the staging of a kangaroo court, he was dismissed in disgrace.

Subsequently, he immigrated to New York and, for all of the intervening years, he has continued to plead his innocence, right up to his present great age of 100 years-plus.

Naturally, he never got a pension from the Irish State. Neither did he obtain a pardon. That was out of the question because no charges were ever laid against him in a public court. It was his three superiors who had made the decision.

In a welcome effort to put the record straight, the Irish government has effectively apologized for the treatment meted out to the old man. It has also awarded him a full state pension on the basis that he should have been allowed to complete his full term within the police force.

Geary has obtained a pension of over £1,700 per annum, the equivalent paid to a superintendent today after serving the full term. And the government has also given him a once-off lump sum of £50,000.

"I left the country branded a scoundrel and a traitor and now my name is cleared after all these years," he has been quoted as saying.

Money was never the object of his campaign, he claimed. His aim all along was to get his name cleared. Now that it has been, he deserves nothing but admiration.

Justice can still be obtained, even after 71 years

The wheels grind much more slowly in the sluggish backwater of Northern Ireland, where all sorts of crimes against democracy on a purely sectarian basis were piled under the constitutional carpet to such an extent for so long.

Even the very name of justice has been perverted for such a long period as to make it seem that the situation is irremediable.

The same sectarianism inherent in the area since its inception is now making itself heard more loudly than ever. The marching season is now well upon all of us and the majority of loyalists, who are militant and unashamedly more anti-Catholic than they are pro-anything else, are beating the drum.

When David Trimble, as a Nobel Peace prize winner, went to visit Pope John Paul II, he was careful to make it clear to his constituents that it was purely a courtesy visit. He also emphasized that the Roman Catholic pontiff had greeted him with the question, "You’re British, aren’t you?"

The North’s First Minister, a member of the Orange Order, assured him that he was, of course, British, rather than Irish. And he dismissed descriptions of his visit to meet the pope as being "historic."

However, he did not go on to remind those same constituents that it was not the first time a prominent member of the Orange Order had met a Catholic pope. In fact, the order’s titular head, King William of Orange, met Pope Innocent in the 17th century. His victory at the Boyne was, of course, celebrated with a "Te Deum" in the Vatican.

One might then suspect that it should not lead to any expressions of Orange ire. But, of course, it did.

One Portadown woman grimly predicted that Drumcree is probably going to the staging point for the loyalist’s last stand. "The loyalist people of this town and Drumcree put David Trimble into office; now he has turned his back on us," she said. "That’s a fatal mistake. This town and Drumcree will now destroy Trimble."

Still, for their own political reasons, both Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair have given the Orange card, the eternal unionist veto, back to the loyalists in terms of insistence on IRA arms decommissioning.

It just will not work. There is no way that the increasingly militant nationalists of the North are going to accept such a veto on their future participation in government.

While nail bombs are still being exploded at Catholic homes and businesses, and while car bombs are still being planted beneath cars owned by Catholics even as the threat of Drumcree looms over all, there is no way that the IRA will surrender a single weapon.

The political leaders will just have to come up with a viable solution. Parking the agreement during the long, hot summer of loyalist dissent is not going to solve anything.

The inherent threat of the violent loyalist veto will now also have to be removed from the potentially explosive situation.

Justice will have to be seen to be done, as it was in the case of William Geary.

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