I thank the Minister of State for coming into the Chamber to take this most important matter.
Time is not on our side. On 9 August 1971 Operation Demetrius was introduced by the British army after being sought by the sitting unionist government. Nationalists and republicans from across the Six Counties were waking up to internment without trial. Over 350 men were taken in the first swoops. Many of these men and boys had no connection to republican politics or the republican movement. Fourteen of the men were specially selected by the British army, with approval from the British Government, the then unionist government and the RUC, to be experimented on using various torture techniques. They were taken without their families' knowledge to a secret location in the North, which has since been established as Ballykelly British army barracks. The men selected became known as the hooded men.
There were five torture techniques used during their illegal detention. They were forced to spread-eagle against a wall for prolonged periods, permanently hooded and exposed to a permanent loud hissing noise. They were also exposed to deprivation of sleep and deprivation of food and drink. They received prolonged and routine vicious beatings by their captors during their illegal detention. The effects of this torture included prolonged pain, physical and mental exhaustion, fear and paranoia, severe anxiety, depression, hallucinations, disorientation and loss of consciousness.
In 1976 the Irish Government took the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, which found the British Government guilty of torture. The British appealed and managed to have the judgment overturned in 1978 when the ECHR judged that the five techniques used to torture the 14 men amounted to "inhuman and degrading" treatment but not torture. The Irish Government brought a case back to the ECHR in 2014 following the uncovering of new evidence, the location of the torture chamber in Ballykelly and the declassification of documents related to the torture treatment employed. Earlier this year the ECHR rejected the Irish Government's application to reverse the 1978 decision and classify the men's treatment as torture. The Irish Government has until 20 June, which is less than three weeks away, to launch an appeal against this latest judgment. As we know, torture, as a technique against prisoners, is still employed in many settings across the globe.
Has the Government decided to appeal this decision?
I have introduced this Topical Issue matter on behalf of the surviving hooded men: Liam Shannon, Jim Auld, Kevin Hannaway, Francis McGuigan, Joe Clarke, Brian Turley, P. J. McLean, Michael Donnelly, Patrick McNally and Davy Rodgers and in memory of those who have since passed without justice having been achieved. I pay my respects to them today and offer my sympathy and solidarity to the families of Seán McKenna, Micky Montgomery, Pat Shivers and Gerry McKerr. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a ainmeacha dílse.