Paddy Ashdown and Ireland

Irish Times Letters 8 Jan 2019

Sir, – In the obituary of Paddy Ashdown (January 5th, 2019) it is stated that, “he was once required to arrest the Catholic civil rights activist and future fellow MP John Hume on the streets of Belfast”. How absolving – “was once required”. How inaccurate – “streets of Belfast”.

The facts are that on August 26th, 1971, the Royal Marines, under Ashdown’s command, using armoured military vehicles, some on tracks, attempted to enter Derry’s Bogside and were prevented by a sit-down protest of men, women and children on Laburnum Terrace in Derry. The peaceful protest was organised by, among others, John Hume, MP for the city.

Ashdown’s Royal Marines sought to remove the peaceful sit-down by recourse to water cannon, tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges. John Hume, Ivan Cooper, and I, as well as others, were arrested.

Some of us were dragged along the street, others, including Mr Hume, were frogmarched by the arresting soldiers and all of us were spreadeagled against a wall on the nearby Lone Moor Road.

Incidentally, we appealed our subsequent conviction for disorderly behaviour all the way to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom – Regina (Hume and others) v Londonderry Justices Queen’s Bench Division [1972] NI 91 – where its judgment quashed our convictions and declared that the British army, Capt Ashdown’s Royal Marines included, had acted illegally. The judgment required the British parliament to sit in an all-night emergency session to pass all stages of new legislation “conferring retrospective legitimacy” upon previous British army activity in Northern Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – David Clarke (Letters, January 7th) was most generous in his assessment of the life and times of the late leader of the Liberal Democrats in Britain, Paddy Ashdown. Mr Clarke claimed that Mr Ashdown regarded himself as an Irishman and was the “embodiment of the British liberal tradition, which has been a great force for good in the world”.

Jeremy Ashdown, patronisingly referred to as “Paddy”, was from a family of colonial soldiers and administrators in British India. Lord Ashdown served in the Royal Marines in Borneo during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation and in the Persian Gulf. He also served in the Special Boat Service in the Far East and Hong Kong and had his own command in the Royal Marines in the North. He also served in the murky British Secret Intelligence Service.

Some years ago I wrote to Mr Ashdown and asked him to use his office to help me secure the release of files and documents held by Britain which might be of assistance in bringing to justice those responsible for the biggest mass murder in Irish history, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. I did not receive the courtesy of a reply. Perhaps the current leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable, might care to oblige? – Yours, etc,


Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

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