Declassified government documents on interrogations of Irish detainees in the 1970s

The Pat Finucane Centre has uncovered declassified British government documents showing London misled two official inquiries and the European Court of Human Rights on the existence of a secret interrogation centre in Ballykelly, County Derry. On 9 August 1971, 350-plus people were arrested and interned. Twelve of the internees were subjected to "deep interrogation". They were subjected to sleep deprivation, white noise, wall-standing, a diet of bread and water and hooding. These became known as "the five techniques." The European Commission on Human Rights called it torture.

Even as a British government-ordered inquiry was examining these events, London was keeping the location of the interrogation centre a closely-kept secret. A British lieutenant colonel reported:

"it was very important to keep secure the existence and location of the centre at Ballykelly where the 12 detainees in question had been interrogated. It was not publicly known that this centre existed as well as others which were known."

As the official inquiry went about its work, it was kept in the dark although senior civil servants, security agencies and the British Army were informed.

An inquiry under Sir Edmund Compton delivered its report in November 1971 with no mention of Ballykelly. Compton visited five centres. Ballykelly was not one of them. A later report under Lord Parker (March 1972) also makes no mention of Ballykelly. These reports should now be binned (alongside Widgery’s on Bloody Sunday).

In the 56,000 words of the European Court of Human Rights’ final ruling on the case the Irish government took against London, there are only two references to Ballykelly. This shows the British government misled parliament, the European Commission and the European Court of Human Rights. 

The PFC believes that this was deceptive and probably illegal and has notified the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin which is examining the matter. We are also preparing a submission to the Committee of Ministers in Europe.

The PFC has also uncovered documents claiming that the 14 men subjected to the "Five Techniques" voluntarily wore their hoods – one for twice as long as he was forced to. Other documents detail how the British government decided to settle compensation cases out of court rather than be exposed for forged documents, violent ill-treatment of detainees and other abuses of human rights.

The PFC is to give a presentation at the Belfast Féile An Phobail exposing these and other declassified government documents on interrogations of Irish detainees in the 1970s.

Four of the men themselves have been invited to give their own perspective and to answer questions from the audience.


"Interrogation" The follow-up to the Report of the Compton Committee4.52 MB