Death of Hooded Man Paddy Joe McClean

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The oldest surviving member of the group known as the Hooded Men has died.

The former civil rights leader Paddy Joe McClean passed away at his home in Beragh, County Tyrone this week. The 86-year-old was interned twice, during the 1950s and again in the 1970s.

He was one of 14 Catholic men from across the north who were subjected to state-sanctioned British military torture when they were interned in 1971.

The techniques included being hooded, made to stand in stress positions, forced to listen to loud static noise and being deprived of sleep, food and water.

In some cases the men were also thrown from helicopters they were told were hundreds of feet in the air despite being just feet from the ground.

At the time he was interned he was aged 38 and worked as a remedial teacher.

A founding member of the Civil Rights Association, he later spoke regularly on the issue of peace and reconciliation. He stood for both the Worker’s Party and Democratic Left in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

In 2013, Mr McClean said he had been chosen because the interrogators needed a geographical spread of internees and they could not find an IRA man from the Omagh area.

“The best they would say was, ‘You’re the chairman of the Civil Rights Association, people trust you, therefore you’ve been talking to IRA men,’” he said.

“They’d make you stand on your tippy-toes with legs apart and hands against the wall and if you looked like falling you got kicked and were put back up again.

“Sometimes they would pick you up and run your spine up and down over the edge of a table.

“They kept you awake by battering cups on the corrugated iron huts. No food. When you asked for water they’d give you a drip . . . It seemed to me they were testing how far they could go without causing death. You’d be tortured, questioned, then back again. You’d swear you were going insane,” he said.

Surviving members of the Hooded Men offered their condolences to the McClean family and attended his funeral in Beragh.

In a statement his family said the father-of-12 “knew that all kinds of discrimination existed around the world and people should not be blind to it.

“Even when he was treated unfairly and unjustly himself, he made it clear that this would not define him.

“He would not live his life in victimhood. That would only do him and his family harm, not the perpetrators of the crimes against him.”

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