Irish Republican News · February 1, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

The widow of a former Republican POW who was gassed by the British in Long Kesh prison has demanded that British Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly admit what was done.

CR gas or Dibenzoxazepine -- ten times more irritant than tear gas -- was used against Republican prisoners on October 16, 1974 following the burning of Long Kesh by the prisoners in protest against the camp conditions.

As the POWs fought with British soldiers, helicopters flying overhead dropped the gas in capsule form, while British troops on the ground sprayed the gas on prisoners.

Though the prisoners complained about the effects of the CR gas they were not believed but papers released under a new British freedom of information act this week revealed that they were telling the truth.

Paul ‘Winker’ Watson died an agonising and premature death last September. He was just 52. His wife Carol said it was time the British admitted and explained why the army deployed the toxic CR gas in 1974 on the prisoners. She said it was particularly poignant on the commemoration of the liberation of the Jews from Auschwitz concentration camp.

A spokesman for the British Prime Minister said Carol Watson could write to him, and added: “It’s really hard for me to find out any information about this. I’m sure if she wrote a letter someone would have a look at it. I do not deal with that side of things. You should call the MoD [British Ministry of Defence].0/00

The MoD refused to comment and the NIO (Northern Ireland Office), responsible for prisons has said it is a matter for the MoD.

Paul ‘Winker’ Watson was just six days off his 53rd birthday when he died after a brave battle with cancer. He was one of an estimated 50 to 60 ex-POWs who suffer or who have died from cancer-related deaths in the years since the deadly gas poisoning.

All the men describe the choking effects of the gas named CR gas or Dibenzoxazepine -- ten times more irritant than tear gas.

Carol Watson said her husband, from the Oldpark area of Belfast, was convinced that the cancer he battled that assaulted him in almost every organ of his body was the result of being gassed with the poison gas that was fired from helicopters over the football pitches in the compounds.

“Paul was diagnosed three years before his death. The cancer started in his stomach. They removed his stomach, his spleen and part of his gullet. That was just the start.0/00

He endured terrible agony and years of chemotherapy until the cancer spread into his bones.

The release of the papers brings to new heights the battle to have the British admit they gassed prisoners, some interned without trial.

“It’s hard to believe that so many men who were there in 1974 on that night have died or have developed cancer. They were all young and fit then.”

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