My old friend Fr Joe McVeigh has been slagged off in the Letters section of the Venerable Organ. You see, he made a speech recently condemning dissident republican attacks. Shortly afterwards a letter condemning Joe and all his fellow-travellers to republican hell appeared in the VO; Joe in his innocence wrote a rebuttal, assuming the VO would allow him equal space to defend himself. Hah. And ha-hearty-ha. No chance. When he rang up and asked why, he got vague mutterings about pressure on space. Pro Fide et Patria - isn’t that the VO’s motto? For faith and country, but not for Joe.
I expect the VO gave much more space thirty years ago to the charges of torture in the north. This morning their front-page is given over to the subject of hospital beds, leaving it to The Guardian in England to deliver a two-page spread confirming the abuse and torture of detainees here in the late 1970s. “Both IRA suspects and loyalists were beaten, burned with cigarettes or lighters, forced to assume stressful positions for long periods, stripped and humiliated, and sometimes threatened with murder. Some suffered such severe injuries that they were taken to hospital”. And lots, lots more in a similar vein.
Now, the problem wasn’t a scarcity of people complaining about such mistreatment at the time (although some detainees did refuse to complain to doctors, having been threatened with worse by the forces of law and order if they did). The problem was getting credence from the wider public through the media. So I wonder - how did The Guardian back then respond? Did they cover it? Did they write outraged editorials? And what about the VO, the champions of faith and country – they surely stood up for those who were systematically abused back then, had false confessions beaten out of them before conviction in front of a Diplock court. Didn’t they? I must ask Joe McVeigh does he remember if pressure on space allowed them to do that back then.