Have you heard about Christy Walsh? Who? I hear you ask, up until a few days I had heard nothing until I was directed to the case via letters from Christy Walsh published on 'The 'Pensive Quill'.
We are often told that there is no hierarchy of victims stemming from the period referred to as the 'troubles'. In her 2007 article, Who are the victims? Debates, concepts and contestation in 'post-conflict' Northern Ireland Dr Sara McDowell wrote;
'Defining the term ‘victim’ is a task fraught with difficulty within the contested terrain of Northern Ireland. In human terms, ‘the Troubles’ cost approximately 3,700 lives and imparted a tangible and intangible heritage of loss, pain and suffering to a much wider population.
Today there is a man on hunger strike to highlight how he was treated by our so called justice system during this period and after. An aggrieved Christy Walsh writes regularly to the Northern Ireland First and Deputy First Ministers to advise them of his situation and the action he has taken. From reading his correspondence Christy appears disturbed at being continually criminalised by the system that failed and continues to fail him as a citizen.
Jailed in 1991 in what can be only described as another 'troubles related' miscarriage of justice Christy Walsh spent 7 years in prison, his conviction was quashed following an unprecedented third appeal in 2010.
This situation dates back to 1991 when Christy Walsh was arrested by a member of the Parachute Regiment in West Belfast accused of possessing a coffee jar device which was found on a nearby wall.
Following his arrest he was taken for interrogation to Castlereagh and questioned over a period of two days in the absence of a lawyer. Later on legal advice Christy gave a written account of his movements on the day to police. The soldier who stopped Christy alleged that he had instructed Christy to remove a coffee jar device from his pocket. In October of that year the findings of forensic examinations could not connect Christy or his coat to the coffee jar device. In addition to this experts confirmed that there was no attempt made to clean the jar.
In February of the following year Christy was advised that a second soldier was claiming to have witnessed him being instructed to remove the device from his coat pocket. During his trial that December the trial judge seemed to take more issue with Christy choosing to remain silent during court proceedings than with the documented flaws in the evidence provided by the soldiers. In the absence of forensic or any substantive evidence Christy Walsh was sentenced in a Diplock Court to 14 years in prison.
During his appeal in January 2002 the Court of Appeal raised concern over how the former judge drew adverse inference in respect of Christy's silence in court despite his co-operation with both the army and police being a matter of record. In legal terms adverse inference means drawing inference/conclusion, unfavourable to the concerned party. Despite this the Court of Appeal ruled that “an exception” was justified with Christy's conviction considered safe despite it being in breach of article 6 of the European Convention which provides for the right to a fair trial.
During a third appeal in March 2010 the Court of Appeal concluded that Christy's conviction was unsafe. Subsequently when reading the prosecutors file Christy discovered that evidence in relation to the arrest of an IRA man around the same time had been omitted during his trial in 1992.
Over the past number of weeks Christy has been writing to the First and Deputy First Ministers to alert them to the action he has taken. This man is clearly aggrieved at how he has been treated, so much so that he has embarked on a hunger strike to have his voice heard.
When reading through the facts of this case one word in particular continually sprang to mind, the word turmoil. Furthermore I could see similarities in this case and the case of Bloody Sunday Victim Gerald Donaghey.
Twenty-one chapters of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry Saville Report focused on whether or not Gerald Donaghey had nail bombs in his pockets when his body arrived at an Army station on Foyle Road, Derry. Evidence provided by numerous sources including the doctor who examined the young boy confirmed that this was not the case. The only rational explanation is that these devices were planted on the young boys body. Not content with murdering Gerald Donaghey the British state, its forces and apologists set about criminalising him, a stain on his memory perpetuated by the Saville inquiry to this day.
Keeping what happened to Gerald Donaghey in life and in death in mind remember this is the same British regiment who through their manipulation of the justice system used a similar method to secure the conviction against Christy Walsh. A man who to this day evidently bears the scars that stem from a blatant miscarriage of justice.
Christy Walsh has never been compensated for what he suffered and continues to suffer. He is in need of urgent support yet outside of internet sources his situation conveniently escapes the notice of the mainstream press not to mention the attention of those he seeks to reach in OFMDFM.
I would encourage everyone to write to both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to demand they intervene in this case before it is too late.
Email for both: firstname.lastname@example.org