Francie McGuigan RTÉ Radio One Sunday with Miriam 25 March 2018

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Sunday With Miriam
RTÉ Radio One 

Miriam O’Callaghan is in studio with Francie McGuigan who discusses the decision by the European Court of Human Rights in the ‘Hooded Men’ case. (begins time stamp ~1:03)

Miriam:   Well my next guest this morning, he’s driven from Belfast to be here, is Francis McGuigan, known as Francie, one of the so-called ‘hooded men’. Arrested in 1971 by the British Army when he was just twenty-three when the Army interned hundreds of Catholics without trial. He suffered brutal interrogation techniques to such an extent that at one stage things got so bad he actually thought he was going to die. This week Francie was among fourteen men who had their cases rejected by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The men and the Irish government were seeking the court to find that the men had suffered tortured and not just inhuman and degrading treatment. Good Morning, Francie! And thank you for being here.

Francie:   Good Morning! My pleasure.

Miriam:   Listen, do you mind if we go right back just for my listeners when this all began when you were twenty-three – tell me if you don’t mind, what happened?

Francie:  I was arrested at three-thirty in the morning in August 1971, dragged off to Girdwood Army Barracks, spent forty-eight hours there and then hooded, handcuffed and taken out in a helicopter along with three other lads and flown to what now turns out to be Ballykelly although at the time we had not got a clue what was going on.

Francie McGuigan
Photo: Irish News

We arrived in Ballykelly and when the helicopter started to slow down they took me just towards the door, the air compression doors opened and I was thrown out. I didn’t know where, how high I was or what but I was actually caught, brought it, the hood was removed and I was standing in front of a man with a white coat and a stethoscope, who I assumed to be a doctor. He gave me a thirty second medical examination and just nodded. At which place the hood was placed back on and my clothing was removed and I was placed into the boiler suit. And I’m just going to go over basically what my life consisted of for the next seven days. As I said, I was hooded. Just think about that: Seven days – the only time that hood was off was while I was being interrogated. Wall standing: Standing up against a wall in the stress position; fingertips on the wall, feet back out, wide apart, small of the back pushed in. The only way that I could come off the wall was to fall into a ball. The next method they had was food deprivation. I don’t think we got anything to eat or drink for first three days were we there. We also had sleep deprivation. We were denied sleep. We were physically exhausted.

The noise. The white noise. This is the noise that I describe as coming in through my hair, down through my body, out through my toes and touched every nerve and sinew in my body as it was doing that. Now everybody talks about these ‘five techniques’ that they used on us. I would like to tell everyone now there was a sixth technique – and that was sheer brutality, brute force, beating. When I came back after those seven days I had three fractured ribs, I had no skin on either wrist where I had been handcuffed and that’s how I spent those next seven days. And I’m talking about, I spoke about the boiler suit. Just think about this for a second: For seven days that boiler suit was my day clothes, my night clothes and, unfortunately, was also my toilet for seven days. We were denied the use of toilets.

I was placed against a wall. I refused to stand, rolled up and into a ball. I was beaten, dragged, kicked – back up against the wall and that went on for four or five times, I just refused to stand, ’til eventually I discovered if I stood against the wall the kicking and beating stopped while I was standing there. But while this was going on this white noise was constantly there in my brain- the white noise took over the brain. You kept wondering: What’s going on? What are they doing? What’s this? What’s this? Because nobody has spoken to me. Nobody has told me why I’m there or anything else. And you would collapse out of sheer exhaustion against the wall in which case you were taken, beaten, battered, back up against the wall and this white noise going on continuously as I said that occupied the brain. I passed out. The next thing I recall is coming to, being dragged along a corridor, two soldiers had me in below the arms, I was barefooted and my feet scraping along the floor. When I did eventually get into Crumlin Road Prison they noticed the insteps of my feet – the skin was off them as it was off my wrists. I was then taken into this room, sat down in a chair, my hands were taken and handcuffed behind my back, the hood was removed and there in front of men were two men sitting facing me, one standing behind me and these bright lights shining in my eyes and this was the Interrogation Room – and this was like the Cagney stuff out of the movies – the bright lights in my face. The fella went up and down behind, these boys would ask questions. They start off every question session with: Name and Address. The boy behind me would walk up and down as these boys were asking questions. If they didn’t get the answers he’d come along, he’d slap me in the two ears or he’d swing on the handcuffs and this went on, these interrogations lasted one, two, three, four hours. I remember one particular interrogator who has this peculiar habit – he’d stick his, reach across the table and put his forehead to my forehead and scream and shout at me down to the point where I could feel his spittle hitting me in the face. I couldn’t…

Miriam:  …What kind of questions were they asking you at the time, Francie?

Francie:   Who’s in the IRA? Are you in the IRA? Is your father in the IRA? Who shot such-and-such? Who planted such-and-such a bomb? I hadn’t knowledge of all these things at all. And this went on – they say that they spent a total of, in some of the documents, where they spent a total of twenty-eight hours interrogating me over that seven day period. I don’t remember – I remember another time going in for interrogation…

Miriam:  …Can I just ask something, Francie – You weren’t arrested on your own – weren’t there six in total of your family arrested at that time?

Francie:  No, at that particular morning I was the only one arrested. They tried to arrest my father, who was over sixty at the time, but my father just laid – while there was three soldiers – took me and placed me in the lorry they left one soldier to take my father.

Miriam:  Why did they take you?

Francie:  Um, I’ll tell you straightaway why they possibly took me and you can find the answer yourself. Brian Faulkner was the Minister for Home Affairs at the time and one of the lads that was actually a ‘hooded men’ was going across on the Strangford ferry one day and there was Brian Faulkner. So he approached Brian Faulkner and said: Mr. Faulkner, you had me arrested in 1971 for internment. Could you tell me why?  Mr. Faulkner, rather amased, looked at him and said: I interned three types of people: the terrorist, those that supported them and those that protest against internment. Fit yourself into whichever category suits. Good Day, Sir! And walked on so…which category?

Miriam:  Which category did you fit into?

Francie:  Pardon?

Miriam:  Which one did you fit into?

Francie:  Brian Faulkner would tell you I fitted into all three!

Miriam:  But you were involved in the civil rights, weren’t you?

Francie:  I was involved. I was elected onto the first Belfast civil rights committee…

Miriam:  …Yeah, exactly! So you were…

Francie:  …myself and a young lad called Adams! I also took part in housing action committees within Belfast.

Anti-Internment League London
Circa 1971 Source: CAIN

We done surveys on houses in Belfast. They had just completed Divis Flats at the time and they were lying dormant and people living in rat infested homes and I thought, we thought, it’d be a great idea to re-house these people in these home. Little did we know that we were putting people into sectarian ghettos that have since, thank God, been knocked down but we were naive at the time. But as I say, go back to this torture thing that happened with the fourteen of us: As I said at another interrogation they started off: Name. Address. Spell your name. And I spelt ‘Francie’ all right – could not spell ‘McGuigan’ – kept making a mistake in spelling my own name and started to panic at this stage – what’s happening? I can’t! They thought this was very humourous so they decided this time: Take him away and let them think about this. So this time they brought me back to the room where they handcuffed me to the cast iron pipes and I had a mattress this time, as opposed to the other times where they put me on the concrete floor, and the guard there – for the first time only the guard spoke says: You’re not to sleep. You’re to think about all of this. Of course, I passed out. And immediately, I imagine immediately, the doors opened – You were told not to sleep! Dragged up, back to the ‘Music Room’ as they call it.  So for seven days I was either standing against this wall or else lying on a concrete floor handcuffed to a cast iron pipe or I was in for interrogation.

Miriam:   And at the time, Francie – because I know you’re recalling it now as a much older man – how terrified were you? And I know at one stage you thought you were going to die.

Francie:   At one stage I wanted to die. At one stage we all, and you can ask any of the boys this, we all believed that at that stage they are never going to release us alive to tell the world what happened. I’ve just, in two or three minutes, tried to describe what happened in seven days. Fear, panic, despair, try to resist, try to stand up, go collapse again but we kept fighting and oppose it. I can listen to the other lads talking and I know exactly what they’re trying to say – I can’t find the words to describe the words to describe the emotions I went through at that stage but when I hear some of the other boys talking I understand exactly.

Miriam:  Tell my listeners about the helicopter because, in other words, we know now it was hovering low but tell the terror of that when they were threatening to throw you out of that.

Francie:  It’s just – I can’t describe terror in that aspect – you’re just there. You believe that you’re going to be thrown to your death. You have five, ten, fifteen seconds to imagine your death. Think about it yourself. How do you imagine your emotions should react? You know, and as I said, that during this we did not believe we’d be let free from this place to tell the world what they done to us. We thought we were going to be killed at the end of it or done away with or whatever decided thing they wanted to do to us and you actually came to the point: Well I hope it’s sooner rather than later. I can’t stand much more of this.

Miriam:  And I know as a result of this – in the end, of course, you were charged with nothing because you should not have been charged with anything – you were there interned without trial…

Francie:  …No, none of us had been!…

Miriam:  …but you suffered mentally for years after, didn’t you, Francie? And is it right that you couldn’t live in Belfast for thirty years – just the sheer trauma?

Francie:  Well I managed somehow to escape out of Long Kesh and I was then – they wanted to arrest me to put m,e back in Long Kesh again or charge me for escaping from lawful custody – I dispute the ‘lawful custody’ – so I ended up living in Dundalk for a few years and then in Dublin for twenty years. And it’s only recent years I’ve returned to Belfast – the past ten years.

Miriam:   What impact did that have on your life, Francie?

Francie:  I initially thought it had none. You know. I’m one of these big, strong lads – nothing bothers me. I’m grand – but I had discovered as years passed I found a need for counseling. I’ve been receiving counseling on and off for the past thirty years. One other thing I’d like to point out: The British have said there’d be no after-effects of this. They seemed to have forgotten that they released four of the fourteen men – they released them from the prison into psychiatric hospitals. Another man, after he was released (a few months later), spent three months in a psychiatric hospital. Another man spent three weeks in a psychiatric hospital. And it’s only in recent years, with speaking to each other, that we actually even admit to each other that yes, this causes me sleepless nights, I’m waking up in the middle of the night – the bed is absolutely saturated with sweat. I have nightmares. I’m afraid to go back to sleep and it does come back – you relive this whole process over and over again and that’s why I think there’s a few points I’d like to bring up here just about the result in Europe….

Miriam:  …of the European Court. Just explain to my listeners: I think partly also, to give credit to Rita O’Reilly, she made the documentary called The Torture Files for RTÉ Investigates, and they brought up new evidence because Europe did find that the British were guilty of inhuman and degrading treatment but you and the Irish government believe it was torture…

Francie:  …I know it was torture!…

Miriam: …Yeah. And that investigation showed that. So this week’s judgment, which found against that, first of all: How disappointing was that for you, Francie?

Francie:  Very dismayed in disappointment. Not only for the fourteen of us but in 1976 the European Commission came up with the verdict that it was torture. That was appealed to the European Court who ruled ‘degrading and inhumane treatment’. And I remember saying at the time, and it’s copied in the Irish Times if somebody cares to look it up , I said it was a political decision. It now gave permission for governments to arrest citizens, drag them from the streets and torture them and say it wasn’t torture. And I think the intervening years have proved it – we have Guantánamo, we had Abu Ghraib, we had the ‘black sites’ – so I think what I said in 1978 was true. Now this ruling this week has now given double indemnity to these governments that want to go ahead and do this poor bugger who, wherever part of the world he’s in today, is going to be arrested by his government – he will be tortured but he’ll be told it’s not torture it’s degrading and inhumane treatment. I think Europe had a massive chance to help eliminate torture throughout the world and they failed So I think there’s a big onus on the Irish government today to appeal this case in the strongest possible terms. Torture must be eliminated throughout the world. I don’t know whether it’ll be eliminated but I think that governments will have to be wary of the fact that if they are convicted of torture the stigma of torture will stick with their nation. When I say ‘political decision’ I think they didn’t want Britain, who was one of the founders of the Human Rights Court, I don’t think they wanted them branded with the stigma of torture.

Miriam:  And I know this happened, Francie, when you were a twenty-three year old man – as I said you were never charged with anything. You were a young carpenter and joiner at the time – did cast a shadow over your entire life?

Francie:   Oh, it has, yes. It has. I, for years, had been in denial. It’s only in recent years I’ll admit that it changed me in many ways and I’m not actually sure what they were. I’m at times watching a television programme or watching the news I have to get up and leave the room because there’s something coming on that brings it all back to me. And it’s just very hard to explain how it still affects me today. There’s night’s I’m afraid to go to bed because I know I’m going to have a bad night – I’m not going to sleep. I’ve seen me at times locking the door, refusing to answer the phone, refusing to open the door, not opening the blinds, spending four or five days not getting dressed, not eating, not washing, shaving, showering and can’t explain to you or to anybody else why I’ve done that. You know? But during that whole time this whole thing is going through my mind – I’m going through this – living it again. Sometimes I believe I’m actually back in the place. Other times I know I’m not back there but I have the same feelings and same emotions.

Miriam:  And Francie lots are saying – Cormac says: Thanks for interviewing Francis. Impossible to understand how any sane person could say this is not torture. When you – you were twenty-three then, Francie, it’s decades later – why is so important for you now, at this stage of your life, that it is held up to be torture, what happened to you, why does it matter after all this time. I understand it but just explain to me why it matters?

Francie:   Because, as I said, it gives governments, the ‘degrading and inhumane treatment’, gives governments the permission. George Bush said it wasn’t torture in Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo – he said it was the same as Britain in Ireland it was degrading and inhumane treatment not torture. Israel has used it. Brazil used it. Argentina used it. There’s other countries that have used it. And I think where a country can be found guilty of torture and that stigma attached to that country – it’ll make an awful difference. One other thing: The RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) men, Special Branch, that were trained to do this, they started this in March of ’71 – they brought over a squad and they built the Special Interrogation Centre in Ballykelly Camp and they trained twelve RUC officers to do this interrogation. They refused to do it until they were granted immunity. They were granted immunity! And it wasn’t a Desk Sergeant that granted them immunity. It came from much higher up the scale and I would say as far as the British Parliament because they were well aware of what was going on.

Miriam:  And for you personally? I can see the bigger picture of how it will, hopefully, stop states torturing others but for you personally, Francie McGuigan, as we close, why would it matter to you, for you and your life, if it is declared to be torture? Do you think it would ease your pain that you’re going through still?

Francie:  I would like to think so but I’m not sure on that because I know I was tortured. My family now know I was tortured. My friends know I was tortured and I think anybody that listens to our case or reads our book knows what happened – that we were tortured. But I think at the moment I’m fighting about what I believe to be, and the lads are all on board with this, it’s not just for the fourteen of us – it’s for every victim anywhere in the world that was tortured by his own government or by foreign governments. Torture is wrong, it’s illegal, it’s bad and it must be stamped out and Europe must take responsibility for what’s happening.


Denis Faul & Raymond Murray Available in paperback

Well,Francie McGuigan, you came down from Belfast this morning – we appreciate that. And you gave me, actually, a book – thank you very much! – The Hooded Men, written by the greats, Denis Faul and Raymond Murray, about your time. Thank you! (ends time stamp ~20:12)

Francie McGuigan RFÉ 13 August 2016

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John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) talk with Francie McGuigan, (FM) one of the ‘hooded men’, via telephone from Belfast about internment, the recent Internment Day rally in Belfast, the torture he endured and the status of the legal case. (begins time stamp ~ 33:50)

MG: We have our guest on the line. Francie – we’re talking to Francie McGuigan – Francie, I’m sorry we’re a few minutes late coming to you.  How are you today in Belfast?

FM: I’m grand, thank God.

MG: Francie, you’ve had more than most experience in terms with Internment Day rallies. Last week there was an Internment Day rally in Belfast and I saw your picture in the Irish News. You were asked to be a supporter, or sponsor, of that rally as a veteran Irish Republican, you, Ivor Bell – I saw some other photographs I that recognised in the Irish News – how do that come about that you were asked to be a supporter or formal supporter of that rally?

FM: Because I myself had been interned and not only that six members of my family have been interned – in fact, my father was interned on three separate occasions so I am very much against internment and always have been. I suffered it as a child with my father being arrested and interned. So I had no hesitation whatsoever. I’ve attended all the anti-internment marches that’ve been in Belfast for the past four years – for the last two years now we’ve been blocked from entering into the centre of Belfast – it seems it’s okay for the Orange Order and that to enter in to the centre of Belfast but not for Republicans. It’s still – this talk about a ‘shared future’ still has yet to arrive.

MG: Francie – we’re talking to Francie McGuigan who is one of the original ‘hooded men’ from Belfast.  Francie, some people would ask: Why an Internment Day rally? They say that internment no – well, you were interned in 1971 and we’ll get to that in a bit – no longer exists in that form. But internment, correct me if I’m wrong, the Internment Day rallies have always gone to the heart. Internment was such an injustice under British rule and not only internment but what happened to you that it seemed to summarise all of the injustices of British rule and that was the thing that was used as an occasion, the Sunday closest to August the 9th, to highlight injustice, to go back to the streets of Belfast. Tell us what injustices that you were highlighting last week as you and others attempted to march from the city centre?

FM:  Well I’ll give you a few examples: For instance, in the North of Ireland today we don’t have the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) we have the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). Name change.  Long Kesh, when were in it – we went to sleep one night in Long Kesh – were told the following morning it’s no longer Long Kesh – it’s Her Majesty Prison The Maze. We were told we’re no longer ‘internees’ you’re now ‘detainees’.  They change the name. And today the practice is: is ‘remandees’.  They take you in. They put you on a charge. They hold you in prison for a year or two years. They then offer you extreme bail conditions: Don’t live within forty miles of your own home, don’t visit this one , don’t speak to such and such a person, you’re not allowed to attend parades or commemorations – so it’s another form of internment. And the same as they’ve done all along – they’ve change the names – they adjust the thing just so that the Brits get their own way in Ireland and still have the heavy hand down on Irish Republicans.

MG:  And Francie – we’re talking to Francis McGuigan – I can remember years ago being at a demonstration against what was called ‘internment by remand’.  And the person who was interned at that stage was Gerry Adams and I believe he was in for about eight or nine months before they announced that there was no real evidence against him and he was released. But now, the people who have been interned by remand in that fashion, simply deny them bail, they’re presumed innocent but yet they said: We can’t give them bail because they may re-offend – commit a second offence – although they’re presumed innocent of any offence – they can be in jail, in prison for much longer. What sort of periods are we talking about for internment by remand?

FM:  You’re talking two – three years! You know and then after three years – there’s been six or seven cases now where somebody’s been remanded in custody on a charge, when the charge actually appears in court, the day it appears in court the charge is withdrawn and the person is released. But they just spent three years in prison – always claiming not guilty to any charge but still refused bail.

In fact this week MI5 has come out and recommended to judges that they don’t grant, to what they classify ‘dissident Republicans,  don’t grant them bail. This is MI5 interfering in the judicial system here in Ireland – they’ve always done that.

MG: And another form of internment that I’ve heard used, or another phrase, is ‘internment by licence’ where someone, and there’s an example, I think there was a demonstration in Doire and he was one of the people who I believe that was highlighted in your march named Tony Taylor.

FM: Yeah, that’s right.

MG: Could explain what happened to him?

FM:  Tony had been released under licence and was re-arrested and put up on a charge – was acquitted of the charge but was returned back to Maghaberry Prison again under licence. So he’s in there now. He’s appeared in court, the charges were withdrawn but he’s returned to prison under licence. They have not put any charge against him. They have not given him a release date so he’s just… They can call it whatever they like – they call it a licence if they want but as far as I’m concerned it’s internment. It’s imprisonment without trial. You know and this is from the country that,  this is from the country that’s supposed to have given us the Magna Carta, the great principles of freedom and all that?  They have just – for eight hundred years they have sat on top of the Irish people.

Go back to internment – going back to when Strongbow first came to Ireland.  The first notable case of internment, from my recollection now, was back in 1803 – Anne Devlin, who was an associate of Robert Emmet. She was imprisoned for three and a half years in a cell three feet wide, fourteen feet long and straw on the floor. Not only was she imprisoned but her entire family were imprisoned – she had a fourteen year old brother who died in prison. I know I’m going back over the years but this practice still goes on in my country today by a foreign government.

MG:  Alright. What happened last Sunday, you wanted to highlight those injustices. I know the committee had applied for all the permits that they would need to march. I believe the place that they marched from was actually the place where John Downes was killed at the Internment Rally in 1984 by the RUC and that’s the place where they really attacked a rally simply because I was introduced by Gerry Adams as one of the speakers. Is that correct?

FM:  John Downes was murdered there. They shot him – he was three feet from the police – an RUC police officer who fired and hit him in the chest with a rubber bullet. He was murdered. You know and they still… Our march was into the centre of Belfast. We’d applied – we gave all the reasons we were going in, we told them exactly how we were doing it, how many people would be involved, how many bands would be playing, we gave them all that information and they told us: ‘No, you can’t’. One of their reason, by the way, in their definition is the fact that the Anti-Internment League does not support the Good Friday Agreement.  As far as I know the Orange Order does not support the Good Friday Agreement, the DUP did not support the Good Friday Agreement but yet with all they can freely march in – in fact, the previous Saturday the Loyalist flag protesters went into the centre of Belfast and stood outside the City Hall opposing a gay pride parade. You know? So they have freedom through the whole city of Belfast but yet all Republicans are confined within their own ghetto areas. We were allowed down the Falls Road – they stopped us at the bottom of Divis Street and Barrack Street and told us we could go no further. So we held our commemoration there and peacefully dispersed.

The previous year they stopped us in the Oldpark Road. The reason they stopped us they said we were going to go into Belfast at a busy shopping time – which was on a Sunday at one o’clock – and we were going to go in and it would upset trade in the centre of Belfast so they blocked us in the Oldpark Road. And again we held our commemoration and dispersed again. They just will not permit Republicans into the centre of Belfast. They brand us all as ‘dissident Republicans’. I’m a Republican. I’m also a dissident because I dissent from British rule in Ireland – that makes me a ‘dissident’ you know so (inaudible) about a shared future does not exist.

MG:  We keep hearing all the influence that Sinn Féin has in the new administration and Nationalists have in the new administration. Why is it that this influence can’t be used to at least give members of their own community the right to march into the centre of Belfast and highlight injustices that are being used by the administration which they represent against fellow Nationalists and Republicans?

FM:  They pay some lip service to it in the fact that one of their elected representatives said they should be allowed into the centre of Belfast. Not one member of Sinn Féin has ever turned up at any anti-internment march. They have got to the situation now with their cosy jobs – they have it all nice and handy – they’re on good wages now and good salaries, great expenses, and they have lost the ideal of Republicanism and they have lost the aim of Republicanism. They can no longer follow the path of Republicanism. They’ve stepped out. They’re part of the system now. They are employed by a British government to administer rule here in the Occupied Six Counties.

JM: (station identification) We’re speaking with Francie McGuigan talking about an internment march that sort of happened last Saturday. Francie, I want to talk about the strategy of the British and they’ve learned well over the years during The Troubles that: You could have done time in Long Kesh and support the peace process and get a visa to come to New York. If you did time in Long Kesh and you didn’t support it you can’t get that.

Part of bail restrictions right now are that you cannot do any interviews while you’re out on bail and you have to watch who you’re associating with. And I feel like I’m a member of the RUC or PSNI – I have to give you a warning: Really watch what you’re saying here because after what happened last week with Gerry McGeough – that you speaking to an audience three thousand miles away – you could be brought up on charges in the Six Counties which is now getting so bizarre that not only do they not want you speaking in the Six Counties without being brought up on charges – but you cannot speak anywhere else in the world, via television or the phone.

FM: No. They prefer we just all go away now but unfortunately we are not going anywhere – as somebody once said: ‘We ain’t going away!’ We’re still here today. We’re Republicans. I’ve been a Republican all my life. I’ve been a Republican activist all my life and I say: I dissident from Britain’s rule in Ireland. Unfortunately, Sinn Féin and their associates have now accepted that position. They accept the status quo that Britain has a right in Ireland.

MG: Francie, we want to just talk a little bit, we want to explain to our audience a little bit about what happened – why internment is such an emotional day. Internment always meant you could be picked up and be held for as long as the British wanted to hold you. But there was a lot more than that. You were arrested at the beginning, in August 9th of 1971 and you became what was called one of the ‘hooded men’. Could you tell us what happened?

FM: Well I was arrested on the 9th of August in the internment round-up and was held for the first forty-eight hours in Girdwood Barracks – went through the usual: In and out for interrogation, back, threatened, punched, battered, they took boys out, put them into the helicopter, lifted the helicopter up, spun it round a few times and then threw the boys out backwards but the helicopter was only two-three feet off of the ground. Now this went on constantly for the first forty-eight hours.

When the forty-eight hours were up they were starting to transfer the men into Crumlin Road Prison to bring them in for internment. In my case, they came to me, they by-passed me and took the lads at the end of the line along with me – they emptied the hall and left two people sitting in the hall, myself and a lad called Joe Clarke. I was then dragged out by a military policeman. When I was arrested and taken out of the house I’d only had a pair of trousers on – I didn’t get no underwear, vest, shoes, socks – so I was actually stripped naked by him and he had himself photographed holding me by the hair.

I was then taken up and brought into a room, kept there for about an hour with military police and RUC and I actually, at that stage, could hear the bombing and shooting going on outside. I was then gripped, taken up, handcuffed behind my back and a hood placed over my head and dragged out and placed into a helicopter handcuffed to three other lads that were there with us. The helicopter then flew, we don’t know, we think somewhere in the region of forty to fifty minutes. I was then – the doors opened in the helicopter. I was handcuffed to Kevin Hannaway. The handcuffs were taken off, I was handcuffed behind my back and then thrown out of the helicopter. Again, at this stage, I did not know how far off the ground I was because in the other case it only lasted three or four minutes. On this occasion we’d had been in the air so I thought this was the end. As you hit the ground,  picked up, dragged in, the hood was pulled off my head and there standing in front of me was a man with a white coat on and a stethoscope round his neck. I got the impression he was a doctor. He gave me a thirty minute medical examination and then  nodded.

MG: And that meant you were fit for more torture?

FM: This was the start of it. The hood was then replaced. I was stripped of the trousers and given a boiler suit that was four or five sizes too big. Thankfully in my case it was too big – some of the boys got suits that was four or five sizes too small. I was then taken, dragged into a room, placed against a wall, fingertips and toes – legs wide apart and this high piercing noise was there. I attempted to come off the wall and received such an awful battering and kicking, placed back against the wall, and this proceeded for the first half hour where I then refused to stand against the wall – got battered – physically dragged up against the wall and this went on indefinitely for I don’t – we can’t put a period of time on it.

But the next thing I remember was being dragged along a corridor, brought into an interrogation room and this was old-style film stuff -bright lights shining in my face and the hood was taken off, my hands were handcuffed behind my back and I was accused of everything that ever happened in the North of Ireland. They then wanted to know: Who’s in the IRA? Who do you know that’s in the IRA? Who does your father talk to? Who calls to see your mother? Did you ever see guns? They went over all this and again I refused to answer questions for them. I kept asking why this was going on and told them I wanted to use the toilet and they told me ‘No’.

So for the next seven days this boiler suit that I had on became my day clothes, my night clothes and my toilet. And there was fourteen of us that went through this – you were then dragged back out, put up against the wall again and this piercing noise coming through constantly – it seemed to go in through your hair and your head, down through your body out through your toes and it seem to touch every nerve and sinew in the body. And each time you tried to come off that wall you were battered so you’d just roll up into a ball and get an unmerciful kicking.

I then came to handcuffed to a cast iron radiator with a hood on lying on a concrete floor. In this room there was no noise but the cold in this room was unbelievable. You’re lying on a concrete floor. The next thing the door burst open and I was kicked and thumped and told: You were told not to sleep! You were told not to sleep! And that was just it for seven days – you were either up against the wall with the noise, in the room lying on the concrete floor handcuffed to a cast iron radiator or else you were in for interrogation.

Now the interrogation, as I said, consisted of this physical abuse – somebody behind was swinging the handcuffs – he’d slap his two hands against your ears simultaneously and at times would grip you by the back of the hair and smash your head against a table. And they then on one occasion I remember they asked me – they’d start off each interrogation having your name and address. So I gave them my name, my address. They asked me to spell my name. I could spell the ‘Francie’ part alright but couldn’t spell ‘McGuigan’. I kept making a mistake. Didn’t know what the mistake was but I knew it was wrong. And I kept trying to do it which they found very humourous and had a great laugh at this and then told me: It was alright – they knew how to spell it – but just to be on the safe side for yourself – try counting up to ten, Francie.’ And I wouldn’t attempt to count to ten in case I couldn’t make it. At this stage I thought I was losing my mind. I was actually convinced that my mind had cracked when I couldn’t spell my own name.

On another occasion when I told them I lived in Jamaica Street they said: ‘Oh! Jamaica Street – Jamaica Street – yes. We believe there was a massive bomb explosion in Jamaica Street and there was seventy-odd people killed in it. We hope your family’s all safe.’ You know, this was the sort of thing that went on…

MG: Right. And that was not true – nothing like that had ever happened. Francie, how long was it before you were transferred from this type of treatment – and again – all this – there are no charges against you – you were never charged with anything – they just picked you up at random. How long was it before you were transferred to Crumlin Road or another prison?

FM: Nine days in total. During that period I lost twenty-one pound in weight – and I was no heavy weight going in – I think I was eleven stone and come out just something over nine stone. So that whole thing – and that went on to the fourteen of us. We were then as you said, transferred back to Crumlin Road Prison and then to Long Kesh. Now some of the boys spent as long as four and a half years in there. Two of the hooded men spent four and a half years. A couple of hooded men were released but re-arrested and re-interned maybe a month later, you know? In actual fact they say that there’s no psychological damage to what they put us through. But yet with this all, four of the victims of this torture were released from Long Kesh only to be brought in to psychiatric hospital – released from the prison into a psychiatric hospital.

MG: Now, Francie, you and the other hooded men – we’re talking with Francie McGuigan who is talking about the Internment Day rally which was halted and stopped from going into the Belfast city centre last week and is also talking as one of the hooded men who was interned in 1971 – You brought a court case, you and the other hooded men, to the European Court. Originally the European Commission found that Britain was guilty of torture and inhuman treatment and I remember the European Court modified that finding and said it was only inhuman treatment. And there were headlines in American papers and British papers: ‘Britain Not Guilty of Torture’ – even though they were found guilty. But you’re appealing that now. Where is that court case and what’s the next thing that’s going to happen with it?

FM: We have – in the intervening years – this was forty-five years ago – we’ve never let go of it. We’ve been fighting for justice for the forty-five years. In the interim we discovered British government documents that they release every thirty-forty years where actually in some of the documents they actually – this was discussed at Cabinet – and the word torture was used and accepted and this was sanctioned by the British government at the highest level. We have also evidence that not only did they withhold information from the European Court but they actually lied to the European Court – the doctors lied and some of the officers lied and we now are firmly, firmly convinced that when the case goes back to Europe on this occasion Britain will be found guilty of torture.

I think on the first occasion they didn’t want the stigma of torture applied to the British government who was one of the founders of the European Court of Human Rights. You know, to have one of the founders of it get the stigma of torture – you know so, we’re going back there – we are fairly confident that we’ll get the true result this time.

MG: Alright, Francie – we’ve been talking to Francie McGuigan – it’s near one o’clock – six o’clock your time, Francie, we want to thank you. Yeah – like they say you know, if someone is willing to use torture they’re probably willing to lie about it and cover up and withhold documents – but we’re hopeful. I want to thank you just for talking about what happened last Sunday at the anti-internment rally and also what’s happening with the hooded men.  Thank you, Francie. (ends time stamp ~ 56:33)