Ireland: Secret use of toxic gas against prisoners revealed

CR gas was used to quell rioting in Long Kesh jail in October, 1974.

Papers from 1976 obtained by the Observer under freedom of information laws show that the use of ‘CR’ or Dibenzoxazepine — a skin irritant 10 times more powerful than other tear gases — was permitted from 1973 to be used on Irish republican prisoners.

News of the disclosures will further inflame controversy over the use of the chemical in October, 1974, to quell rioting at Long Kesh prison, something British ministers have always refused to discuss. More than 50 Long Kesh prisoners who were sprayed with the chemical have died or developed cancer.

Jim McCann, who was in Long Kesh between 1973 and 1981, said: “‘I’ll never forget it, there were grown men screaming for their mothers. We’d all had experience in CS gas, which was easy to avoid, but this was something different, you couldn’t get away from it. I felt like I was on fire. They just decided to experiment on us like we were guinea pigs.”

Sinn Fein spokesperson Richard McAuley, who was also in Long Kesh at the time, said the chemical had been dropped in capsules from a helicopter and sprayed by soldiers inside the prison.

“It was like a thick fog,” he said. “People were being sick and their eyes were streaming. It was a very frightening experience. The truth of what happened should be told.”

Other declassified documents show that training was carried out in absolute secrecy in a secure training area.

[Abridged from Irish Republican News.]

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