29 July 2004 Edition

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Death of Paul Foot

He was, according to The Guardian, "the most seductive revolutionary socialist of his generation" and with the death of Paul Foot on 18 July, aged 66, the cause of Irish freedom has lost an articulate, passionate and consistent friend.

Although the product of a privileged English background, Foot, having committed himself, never wavered in his belief in socialism, a conviction which he channelled through investigative journalism and campaigning on a number of high profile miscarriages of justice. He is probably best remembered for his role in overturning the convictions of the Bridgewater Three and the Birmingham Six and his tireless campaigning on the case of James Hanratty.

In Ireland, however, and particularly in republican circles, Paul Foot was particularly highly regarded for the work he did in exposing Britain's dirty war in the Six Counties. His book, Why Britain Should Get Out of Ireland, made the case for a united Ireland in his characteristically logical but trenchant and entertaining style.

But it was his book Who Framed Colin Wallace? that formed a crucial part of the exposure of the British Government's conduct in Ireland. The Tory government under Margaret Thatcher, and much of the British press, had consistently denounced Wallace as a "Walter Mitty" character after he was sacked by the MoD for refusing to take part in political dirty tricks. When he began to talk and write his previous involvement in what was known as "psyops" and the scandal of the Kincora Boys Home, he was framed for the murder of his friend and imprisoned.

In 1990, however, the government was forced, via an announcement by the Armed Forces Minister in Parliament in front of a squirming Mrs Thatcher, to admit that the key allegations made by Wallace were in fact the case. It took further six years of work by his supporters, including Paul Foot, to have his conviction for murder overturned.

Paul Foot regularly used the platforms he had, latterly in The Guardian, to campaign on Ireland almost until the end. On Christmas Eve last year he berated Tony Blair about the British Government's failure to track down the Dublin and Monaghan bombers and the failure to act on the Barron Report. "It seems that the government is committed to the war on terror" he said,"but not so committed when the British Army, Intelligence or police might be involved in the terror."

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