IRA convictions overturned
IRA convictions overturned

A judge who quashed a conviction against a Sinn Féin assembly member and a Derry-based journalist has spoken of a “distinct feeling of unease” about the 1979 convictions.

Raymond McCartney and Eamonn MacDermott, who both spent more than 15 years in jail, had their convictions reversed after the Court of Appeal discredited evidence given by police officers at their trials.

Mr McCartney said the ruling was a vindication for all those who took to the streets and marched over the conditions faced by prisoners at the time.

The 1980 hunger striker always maintained that while being held in Castlereagh interrogation centre in Belfast he was tortured and ‘admissions’ about two 1977 murders by the IRA - the only evidence against him - were concocted by the RUC men who attacked him.

The Derry Sinn Féin representative, who spent 17 years in prison and became the IRA’s officer commanding in Long Kesh prison, said that he was beaten about the ahead, punched in the stomach and tramped on while in custody

Mr MacDermott, who was 19 at the time of his arrest, was also jailed for the murder of Mr McNulty. He also claimed ill-treatment and assaults by police whilst in Castlereagh.

Mr MacDermott said he was beaten prior to making his admission on which the prosecution case was based and was pinched, throttled and punched in the stomach.

During a hearing in the Court of Appeal, three judges heard evidence which was not available at the time of the original trial.

They were told that John Donnelly, a third Derry man who was arrested and questioned about one of the murders but who was not charged, also claimed that he was badly beaten while being questioned at Castlereagh. A subsequent investigation concluded that Mr Donnelly had been assaulted by police.

Justice Campbell said yesterday that if the judge presiding over the murder trials had known this at the time, “it is possible that it may have influenced his decision to accept the Crown case that McCartney and MacDermott, who had been interviewed by members of the same team of detectives as Donnelly, had not been ill treated”.

Another man who was beaten in custody by one of the RUC men in question who also interviewed Mr MacDermott has launched a private prosecution concerning his treatment in custody.

Mr MacDermott spent 15 years in prison and has worked for the Derry Journal for the last decade.

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