[ 17 October 1971 ]

On this day in 1971, The Sunday Times published a front page article entitled “How Ulster Internees are Made to Talk,” in which former detainee Pat Shivers recounted how, over a period of several days, he was hooded and forced into agonizing stress positions and fell unconscious repeatedly.  The Ministry of Defence immediately held a press briefing to counter the charges, claiming that IRA suspects had been beaten up by their own comrades, so that they could make false allegations of army brutality.

The following month a report by a committee of inquiry set up by, Reginald Maudling, the Home Secretary, the previous  August, acknowledged that there had indeed been ill-treatment, but was very cautious in its criticism and widely regarded as a whitewash by Ulster’s Catholic population.  As the Guardian noted

“From the Compton report it is clear that men were deliberately worn down and exhausted, physically and mentally. The methods are described: standing for hours with arms up against a wall, heads hooded, confused by continuous noise, deprived of sleep, and fed only on bread and water. These, in Compton’s view, amounted to ill treatment.” However, the report had been  “unable to come to any conclusion about eight particular allegations of men being “beaten, kneed, and kicked in various parts of the body”.


[ 17 October 1987 ]

On this day in 1987, at a press conference at the Vancouver Commonwealth Summit Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called the African National Congress “a typical terrorist organisation” and she made it clear that she would have “nothing to do with any organisation that practices violence. I have never seen anyone from ANC or the PLO or the IRA and would not do so.”

Thatcher even implied that protecting human rights wasn’t a realistic objective, arguing that in the face of an internal insurgency, the South African government had to “maintain order and in those circumstances it is sometimes difficult to ensure that human rights are always respected.”  She was the only Commonwealth leader at the conference to oppose widening sanctions against South Africa, on the pretext of opposing terrorism. [1]

However, seven years earlier on 7 October 1981 she had been happy to meet with the Afghan Mujahideen on the Afghan border and informed them that ” “the hearts of the free world are with you”(2)  and had subsequently invited Mujahideen terror leader Abdul Haq to Downing Street where she welcomed him and posed with him for a photograph on 11 March 1986. Haq not only made it clear that he didn’t care if civilians died in his rocket attacks on Russian troops but less than two years earlier, in September 1984, he had planted a bomb at Kabul airport which killed 28 people including many children.(3)



  1.  Elizabeth M. Williams (2015), “The Politics of Race in Britain and South Africa: Black British Solidarity and the Anti-Apartheid Struggle,” I.B. Tauris, London and New York p56
  2. https://archive.org/details/UKGBMujahideen1981
  3. https://www.scotsman.com/news/death-knell-the-execution-of-abdul-haq-smashes-his-dream-of-a-moderate-alliance-1-1290221 and https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/afghan-rebel-leader-mr-abdul-haq-commander-of-the-hasb-i-news-photo/830726656#/afghan-rebel-leader-mr-abdul-haq-commander-of-the-hasbiislami-party-picture-id830726656 and https://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/private-eye-from-2001-on-margaret-thatchers-praise-for-afghan-jihadists/


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