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17 June 1999 Edition

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Injunction against Daily Telegraph


The Bloody Sunday families were awarded an injunction against The Daily Telegraph at the High Court in Belfast on Tuesday, 15 June. The legal victory prevents the paper, which is backing the right to anonymity for British paratroopers, from printing libelous stories about the relatives of the Bloody Sunday dead.

Solicitors acting for the majority of the Bloody Sunday families initiated legal proceedings against The Daily Telegraph after the paper published libelous comments about them last week. Patrick Sherridan of Madden and Finucane has also confirmed to An Phoblacht that libel proceedings against The Daily Mail, also over allegations made against the families, have been started.

In a statement on 12 June, Madden and Finucane stated that they had been instructed to ``vigorously pursue any defamatory comments made by any newspaper and to issue libel proceedings where necessary: ``The families have no intention whatsoever of allowing any section of the English press to attack their reputations in their support of the paratroopers.''

The move follows the increasingly hysterical and hostile coverage by both The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail of the judicial review hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in the second attempt by former members of the Parachute Regiment and other British soldiers who took part in Bloody Sunday to overturn the Saville Inquiry's ruling against blanket anonymity. The Daily Telegraph in its editorial last Friday even went so far as to make the bizarre claim that the release of the names of five former British soldiers last week was comparable to William McPhearson's publishing the names of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry witnesses in his report.

Both newspapers may in any case be open to contempt of court proceedings - The Daily Mail because of it's `Don't Betray the Paras' campaign and The Daily Telegraph because of its equally blatant attempts to influence the outcome of the judicial review and the Saville Inquiry and to exert pressure on the British government. So far, in the latter aim at least, they seem to be succeeding, with British Defence Secretary George Robertson's announcement that the MoD, in addition to paying the legal costs of the former paratroopers (already £1.14 million), is prepared to pay for `protection' for the five men whose names have already been released and others who claim they will need protection should anonymity be refused.

Tony Blair also tried to have it both ways when he said that it would be ``odd if we were not supporting our own troops in front of an inquiry and arguing their case'' whilst simultaneously insisting to MPs that his government is impartial on the Saville Inquiry.

As the judicial review began last Thursday, Michael Mansfield QC, representing three of the Bloody Sunday families, asked the three judges, Lord Justice Roch, Justice Maurice Kay and Justice Hooper, to investigate what he called an ``insidious and sustained'' campaign in support of the soldiers, telling the judges the clear objective of the respective campaigns was to ``impede the stream of justice''.


Bloody Sunday `Darth Vader' hits Kosovo


In Star Wars, Darth Vader - the one with the weird scary voice who commands a legion of nameless, faceless automaton stormtroopers - is the enforcer of a cruel and decadent empire which is hell-bent on crushing the rebellion of a small nation trying to escape its ageing imperialist clutches.

How appropriate then, that Lt Gen Sir Michael Jackson, formerly of the Parachute Regiment and presently head of NATO's ACE Rapid Reaction Corps and British Commander of the NATO forces in Kosovo, should labour under the sobriquet `Darth Vader' and how unsurprising, too, that the man with an unfeasible number of nicknames, `Macho Jackson' `Action Jackson' and the `Prince of Darkness' should turn out to be a veteran of Bloody Sunday, when he was Adjutant to the 1st Parachute Regiment.

Although he was never called to give evidence to the Widgery Tribunal, according to Italian photo-journalist Fulvio Grimaldi's 1972 book, Blood on the Streets, Jackson ``carried the responsibility to a great extent of what was going on.'' In his account of Bloody Sunday, Grimaldi - whose photographs together with sound recordings made by his colleague Susan North, are vital evidence of the events of that day - described the paratroopers as ``soulless mechanical tools, little stuffed men, incapable of speaking, of looking into your face and seeing your eyes, incapable of hearing and listening, incapable of understanding and knowing. Little robots programmed on the use of a gun against a target.'' Whether or not Gen Jackson appears before the Saville Inquiry remains to be seen but he is, he says, determined to ``defend the integrity'' of the Parachute Regiment, describing the last 30 years as an ``ethnic conflict''.

The tiny detail of Jackson's participation in Bloody Sunday seems to have been overlooked by the English press in their ecstatic media coverage of his career, particularly by those sections which have been falling over themselves to establish more spurious connections between the deployment of the Parchute Regiment in Kosovo and their activities in the Six Counties. They have preferred to concentrate on a more non-specific reputation for `toughness' and monastic lifestyle - well, monastic apart from being married and being partial to prolonged whisky-drinking sessions that is.

On 5 June, the BBC opined that ``the Serbian military will perhaps find him more palatable that other commanders as his role so far leaves him with no Serbian blood on his hands'' a sadly misplaced sentiment in view of the Paras' shooting dead of a Serbian hours after they were deployed in Kosovo. And by 14 June, despite his alleged role of `peacekeeper' the BBC had changed its tune, saying of him that, ``when we are about to engage the enemy, we want an officer who looks the part''.

Jackson spent a total of six years in the North of Ireland on three tours of duty, the second as company commander from 1978-1980 and the third from 1989-1992, when he was commander of the 39th Infantry Brigade.

He comes from a military family and joined the army at 19, before taking a degree in Russian at Birmingham University in the late 1960s, a skill which may have come in useful during his time in the security services in Berlin during the height of the Cold War. He joined the Parachute Regiment in 1970 and other active service includes a role as commander of British forces in Bosnia. According to some reports the Prince of Darkness' hero is the Duke of Wellington and like Margaret Thatcher, he is reputed to sleep less than four hours a night.

Jackson was also described as a ``throughly cerebral officer'' by a history professor at Cambridge University, where he spent six months in 1989. That said, his press conferences so far have been marked more by rudeness and impatience than by the quality of his intellect.


An Phoblacht
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