By Liam Mitchell
ADELAIDE — "This is not just about the violation of natural justice, or simple injustice", Australian Irish Congress representative Gerard Steele told a public meeting of 150 people on November 8. Britain "is a country that has violated the national rights and civil liberties of a race of people".
The meeting was organised by the Australian Irish Congress as part of a national tour by Johnny Walker, one of the Birmingham Six, wrongfully imprisoned by the British government for alleged involvement in the bombings of British pubs in November 1974.
Six Irish people, residents of Britain, were arrested and framed with the bombing by the English police. They were beaten, tortured and imprisoned for 16 1/2 years, until acquitted at their third appeal in March 1991.
Johnny Walker told the meeting of his arrest and the subsequent torture of the six prisoners at the hands of both police and prison authorities.
At the first appeal, responding to allegations of police brutality and torture, Lord Denning said, "But this is England, and this doesn't happen in England".
Walker's brother-in-law, Brian Kelly, spoke about the campaign to free the six and the treatment given to the relatives who were campaigning for justice.
Johnny Walker's sister went to England to visit him in prison. Kelly described the hostility that greeted her from the outset. No-one would even give her directions to the prison. When she finally saw her brother, she couldn't recognise him because of the beatings at the hands of the police.
"All obstacles were put in front of Irish families visiting loved ones in jail in Britain", Kelly said. "If John was in a particular prison, there was a great chance, and it did happen, that when the family would get there, he'd be posted away to another prison."
No new evidence was presented at the third appeal. But, said Kelly, "the atmosphere was different. Word must have come down from above, from the government, from Maggie Thatcher, that things would have to be different, because world opinion at this stage was against the British for abuses of human rights in Ireland."
Walker and Kelly stressed that this change had been brought about by the campaign by the relatives of the six men, as well as those groups worldwide campaigning for a just peace in Ireland.
Gerard Steele also spoke about the ongoing campaign against British injustice, saying that polls in Britain showed that 55 to 80% of the population wanted Britain to withdraw from Ireland and leave the Irish people to settle their own affairs.
The meeting was also addressed by Stephen Spence, the state secretary of Actors Equity and John Crawford, from Amnesty International, who een concerned about British abuses of human rights in Ireland since 1972, and has this year produced two reports on Ireland, one discussing human rights concerns in the UK and specifically North Ireland, and the other on killings of Irish people by the British army in North Ireland. n