London: Torture methods used during internment of Irish nationalists at the height of the Northern Irish Troubles were sanctioned by the British government minister, an Irish television documentary has claimed.
In 1971, as violence intensified in the sectarian conflict, internment – or imprisonment without trial – was introduced by the British state as they tried to bring order to the province.
Hundreds of Catholic nationalists were brought to detention camps at army bases. Twelve men, who became known as the Hooded Men, were selected for ‘deep interrogation’.
The men were subjected to five techniques of deprivation: hooding, wall standing in stress positions for hours, sleep deprivation, water and food deprivation and subjection to noise, according to the report.
“I was stripped naked, given a pair of army overalls and taken in my bare feet to a room and placed in the search position,” one of the men, Gerard McKerr told ‘Torture Files’ on RTE television.
“I was concerned that their objective was just to have my mind in pulp. I was going to be brain washed.”
The programme also spoke to the daughter of Sean McKenna, one of the Hooded Men, who was interned in prison after his interrogation.
“And I went in, my father was very broken man, sitting crying, very shaky,” Mary McKenna said.
“He was a great father before that, that man never came back. My father never came back.”
The men were also thrown from a low-hovering helicopter while their heads were covered in hoods.
When details of the men’s treatment broke, there was public uproar with civil rights’ leaders calling for an immediate response.
British Prime Minister Edward Heath banned the techniques in March 1972.
Following the outcry, Dublin said it could no longer stand by as innocent people were injured and insisted the torture was sanctioned at a high level.
Britain denied the claim, saying the techniques used were an unfortunate lapse and parried the blame to lower ranks.