OP-ED by Packy Carty
Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton collectively known as the Craigavon Two, this week pass the 10th anniversary of their incarceration. Both men are facing 18 and 25 years respectively of a life sentence for an attack on a Crown Force convoy in Craigavon in 2009 that resulted in the death of a member of the PSNI/RUC, the locally recruited British Militia.
The attack in Craigavon took place shortly after the IRA had killed two British soldiers in Co Antrim at Massereene Barracks as they prepared to launch imperialist attacks on Afghanistan. The media and political aristocracy fermented a climate of frenzy and were calling for retribution.
In the aftermath of these attacks scores of Irish Republicans who hadn’t been consumed into the British system post 1998 were rounded up and held using special powers, with some of them subjected to over 13 days of interrogation at the end of which Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton were charged and incarcerated in Maghaberry Gaol for the Craigavon attack.
Brendan and John Paul were eventually the victims of a show trial held in 2012 in a juryless diplock court. Neither man could be assigned a role in the attack by the Crown and the lead witness placing Brendan McConville at the scene known only as witness M is someone his own family call a compulsive liar and whose “eyewitness” testimony was proven to be medically impossible, the British Judge nevertheless managed via mental somersaults and drawing “inference” to concluded M’s testimony was ‘reliable’.
Most sinister throughout the process that imprisoned the Craigavon Two was the shadowy hand of British military intelligence. JP Woottons car was some 350 yards from the scene of the attack parked behind a friends house in a nearby housing estate, this was known because it later transpired that MI5 had a tracking device on his vehicle (not uncommon as many have been found in the cars and homes of Irish Republicans in recent years) yet 15 minutes after an attack on a heavily armed convoy of the British Crown Forces JP’s car was still parked at the same location, (hardly the actions of someone who had just been involved in an attack). It later transpired that British Special Forces accessed the car removed the tracking device and wiped a large chunk of the data stored on it, yet the remaining data was used by the British to contrive a life sentence against John Paul Wootton.
Whilst awaiting trial, Screws at Maghaberry planted the details of the then governor in the cell of Brendan McConville, the same team of Crown Forces who where concocting the case against Brendan were tasked to “investigate” the find with the sole purpose of using it against him in the Craigavon case. No action was taken against the screws at Maghaberry after it was discovered only they had access to the type of paper used.
British Intelligence would go on to bug the homes of family and friends of both men, they bugged the homes of family members of their key witness (M) they even bugged his father’s local pub. The PSNI/RUC lifted M’s father in the run up to the men’s appeal and attempted to get him to retract his statements, which exposed M as a lair. Both mens legal teams were subjected to military surveillance, Miscarriage of justice victim and campaigner Gerry Conlon who at the time of his death was chairperson of the Justice for the Craigavon Two campaign was also targeted.
All this sinister activity before and after the trial paints a clear picture of the state picking John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville as scapegoats and weaving a series of inconclusive strands of ‘evidence’ to produce the desired end result, the life imprisonment of two Irish Republicans who couldn’t be linked to the Craigavon attack.
As the case of the Craigavon Two now moves into its second decade, it should tear apart the myth that British ‘policing’ in Ireland, the so-called ‘justice system’ and the use of the British military has in anyway changed, The continued incarceration of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton exposes the continued counter insurgency role of the British Crown Forces in Ireland whose sole purpose is to maintain at all costs British Rule in Ireland.
Throughout the ordeal of the Craigavon Two MI5 now based at its multi-million pound headquarters near Belfast has been shown to have directed the SAS, the PSNI/RUC and Screws at Maghaberry. Based on the facts of the case and how the trial and appeal played out is it a stretch to imagine that they did not also direct the judiciary?
Those who claim to be worried by the case of the Craigavon Two yet call on Irish men and women to inform to the British Crown Forces must share responsibility for this continuing injustice. Many themselves have been victims of the British injustice system only to end up cheerleaders for it such is the depth of their defeat and political redundancy.
At every call to support the failed northern statelet and the British Forces who maintain its existence we must throw up the case of the Craigavon Two, because with this one act of arbitrary injustice the British continue to undermine their own position. In the case of the Craigavon Two it is the British state, its Crown Forces and its judicial system that is on trial and there can be only one damning verdict!