08 March 2006

Photographic evidence of army beating

Daily Ireland

Former Belfast IRA leader Martin Meehan describes dramatic TV meeting with lieutenant whose men savagely assaulted him after raid on club in 1971

Jarlath Kearney

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usA shocking photograph that the British army took after savagely beating one of the North’s best-known republicans has surfaced — 35 years later.

Click photo to view

The photograph emerged as veteran Belfast IRA leader Martin Meehan met a British soldier who wanted him dead.
Mr Meehan was brought to meet Lieutenant Cliff Burrage as part of a BBC programme broadcast last night.
The former British soldier produced a previously unpublished photograph depicting savage injuries inflicted by his Green Howards regiment on Mr Meehan in November 1971.
That beating triggered a episode of events that saw Mr Meehan hospitalised after the brutal assault inside Flax Street Mill in Ardoyne, north Belfast.
He was later interrogated and tortured at Palace Barracks. Within weeks, Mr Meehan had escaped British imprisonment by climbing over the wall of Crumlin Road jail.
Mr Meehan told Daily Ireland last night about his recent encounter with Lieutenant Burrage in the heart of Ardoyne as part of a wider conflict-resolution process.
“He said his ambition every time he went out on patrol was to kill me,” Mr Meehan said.
“I lost a lot of comrades and he lost a lot of comrades so I had reservations about it. There was apprehension. You had mixed feelings.
“I hold no animosity towards the individual. Any animosity that is held is towards the uniform they wear because the uniform represents bigotry, injustice and inequality,” he said.
The meeting between Mr Meehan and Lieutenant Burrage took place at the League Club (Ardoyne Working Men’s Club).
Mr Meehan had been attending a meeting with other republicans in the club when the British army raided it on November 9, 1971. Lieutenant Burrage was one of those leading the raid, which developed into an intense fight.
“The fight lasted 15 or 20 minutes and, at the end, they put everybody against the wall and then they got into me. When they were beating me, the situation was, as far as I was concerned, that they were just going to beat me to death.
“They had these wee batons with lead in them, and they were battering me with rifle butts and kicking me,” Mr Meehan said.
The raiding party had intended to bring everyone from the club to Flax Street Mill for intelligence screening but the fracas in the club and a developing riot outside scuppered that plan.
“Eventually they got me into the Saracen [armoured personnel carrier] and were trying to gouge my eyes out with rifle muzzles, right into the socket of the eye.
“They got me into Flax Street Mill and they were all cheering and shouting. They trailed me out of the Saracen and there was a wee step, and my head hit the step and then hit the ground.
“The beating was so savage and they were shouting and roaring that much, I thought the best way to ensure my own survival was to let on I was unconscious.”
It was at this stage that the photograph of Mr Meehan’s horrific injuries was taken, as he lay spread-eagled on the stone-slab floor.
Mr Meehan stressed that the photograph of his experiences at the hands of British soldiers “only serves to illustrate what hundreds of detainees and other arrested people suffered.
“I wasn’t the only one. There were many men and women and householders who got beatings beyond belief and there was never a word about it. That is something people should remember when they see the current actions of British soldiers torturing and beating people in Iraq,” he said.

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