Henry Robinson

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Henry Robinson is a former member of the Official IRA and a co-founder of Families Against Intimidation and Terror.[1]

Official IRA

Robinson joined the Official IRA in 1979.[2]

During the 1981 hunger strikes, nineteen-year-old Robinson shot and wounded a member of the rival Provisional IRA who had just been released from prison.[3] He received a two year sentence.[4] On his arrival at Crumlin Road Prison he was badly beaten by Provisional IRA prisoners.[5]

Families Against Intimidation and Terror

Robinson co-founded Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT) in 1990.[6]

According to Brian Hanley and Scott Millar's history of Official republicanism, The Lost Revolution, the formation of FAIT occasioned some controversy for the Workers' Party:

Sinn Fein was quick to denounce FAIT as a 'recognised front of the Workers' Party which itself has a paramilitary wing'. The fact that FAIT's spokesperson, Henry Robinson, was a WP member and ex-OIRA prisoner and that FAIT was in receipt of grants from the British government led to questions about its independence; similar questions were asked about New Consensus, which also received British funding.[7]

According to Dean Godson, Monsignor Denis Faul worked closely with Robinson:

Faul was one of the key hidden hands behind Families Against Intimidation and Terror, set up in the early 1990s by Henry Robinson, a former Official IRA activist, to highlight republican punishment beatings and exilings.
Faul supplied Robinson with the blueprint that he had employed in exposing the British Army: taking photographs and witness statements and then giving them the widest possible audience. Thanks to his work on “the Disappeared” — mostly Catholic victims abducted by the Provisionals and whose bodies were then secretly disposed of — the culture of omertà began to erode. It was a masterpiece of political warfare, exposing “freedom fighters” for what they were, and was often subsidised with his own private money. There was more than one way of skinning the Provo cat, Faul believed — and “soft power” with a cutting edge was far superior to having suspects beaten to a pulp in some holding centre.[8]

Newry Protests

Robinson organised a protest after the IRA threatened a number of men in Newry in August 1991:

the IRA had set a noon deadline for six men from Newry, County Down, to leave the island or face "direct military action." The IRA issued the order after what it described as an investigation of a "criminal gang" operating in Newry, 35 miles south of Belfast. Security sources in Belfast said they believe the threats resulted from a feud between warring factions of the IRA. Three men left, but two took part in an anti-intimidation demonstration in Newry on Saturday despite a new IRA threat that they would "get a bullet" if they did, said Henry Robinson of Families Against Intimidation and Terror, which organized the protest.[9]

During this episode, the Provisionals accused FAIT of being a front for the Workers Party.[10]

According to Hanley and Millar, "the incident coincided with tension in Newry as the Provos attempted to enforce their writ in an area where Official influence was still strong."[11]

Donna Wilson killing

Robinson criticised loyalist punishment attacks after the murder of Donna Wilson in South Belfast in 1992:

"The loyalists are trying to mimic the Provos and present themselves as a police force and protectors of the social order," said Henry Robinson of FAIT. "These attacks give them something to do when they're not killing Catholics - they are a taster of things to come. It's a real macho thing: a band of young men go out and work themselves into a frenzy, like a pack of dogs, trying to outdo one another in brutality."[12]

Sinn Fein office allegations

In June 1993, FAIT called on Amnesty International and Helsinki Watch to investigate allegations that young people had been interrogated and tortured in Sinn Fein offices. Sinn Fein claimed the allegations contributed to loyalist attacks on the party, the Irish Times reported:

Mr Henry Robinson, of FAIT, said that he wholeheartedly condemned loyalist attacks on Sinn Fein advice centres but that the party had many questions to answer about alleged occurrences at its offices.[13]

Sean O'Callaghan

According to Sean O'Callaghan, Robinson and Nancy Gracey of FAIT visited O'Callaghan in prison in 1993, at the request of Sunday Times journalist James Bethell, and helped to negotiate and end to the hunger strike that O'Callaghan had embarked upon.[14] Robinson later brought Ruth Dudley Edwards to meet O'Callaghan in prison.[15]

April 1994 attacks

Following a wave of killings and punishment attacks in April 1994, Robinson commented: "The climate in nationalist areas of Belfast is like Germany in the 1930s, with the IRA stormtroopers running about in packs, going into bars and bookies hunting their prey."[16]

Congressional Call

In August 1994, Robinson called for a meeting with a visiting Congressional delegation:

Meanwhile, Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT), has asked the American delegation to meet the victims of republican and loyalist paramilitaries. A spokesman for the organisation, Mr Henry Robinson said: "We believe that the delegation's visit will be exploited by the terrorists. Sinn Fein and the IRA are using the visit to repair some of the damage done to their image in the US following their rejection of the Downing Street Declaration. Any ceasefire by the IRA would just be another cynical, shallow gesture.'[17]

Departure

In 1995, Robinson left FAIT to work with young offenders in London. According to the Irish Times, he was a member of Democratic Left at this point.[18]

MI5 allegations

In 1994, Ruth Dudley Edwards accused the Phoenix magazine of putting Robinson's life in danger by alleging he was an MI5 agent:

Since Henry doesn't fall into any of those categories - broad as they are - the good old MI5 smear is the only solution. And by an interesting coincidence, a Dublin satirical magazine called Phoenix last Friday announced that Fait was funded "from the MI5-run Political Department at the Northern Ireland Office". Fait, it explained, was run by Henry Robinson, "a converted terrorist" or "CT" (a term British intelligence have used since Sir Maurice Oldfield invented it in the Malayan colonial campaign, and which basically means an informer). Its funding had been cut: "Times are tough, even for converted terrorists (CTs) who are assisting Her Majesty's security experts to grapple with the forces of darkness in Ireland." However, there had been no decline in "donations" which flow into Robinson's organisation from unnamed "backers in Britain" who enable him to deliver propaganda against the Sinn Fein-IRA peace process.
Fait is an independent and miserably poor organisation with a niggardly grant from a Northern Ireland Office department that funds peace and reconciliation groups, many of them in Gerry Adams's heartland of West Belfast. Its honourable volunteer workforce try to put their own sufferings from terrorism to positive use.[19]

Denis Faul and Ruth Dudley Edwards testified for Robinson at a libel action in 1997. Edwards recalled:

I met [Faul] first in 1997. I had spent a tedious day in court in Dublin, waiting to give evidence for my friend Henry Robinson, of Families against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT), who had been libelled by a magazine as an agent of MI5.[20]

Palermo Conference

In December 2000, took part in a Palermo conference to mark the signing of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Attended by representatives from over 140 countries, among the audience were the First Minister, David Trimble, MP, Minister of State, Adam Ingram MP, a representative of the Omagh bomb victims, Sean O'Callaghan and Henry Robinson, a human rights activist.[21]

Summit Against Violent Extremism

Robinson spoke at a session in the Summit Against Violent Extremism in Dublin in June 2011:

External Resources

Notes

  1. Jamie Smyth, Why Google has brought an ex-gangster to Dublin, Irish Times, 25 June 2011.
  2. Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party, Penguin Ireland, p.425.
  3. Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party, Penguin Ireland, p.425.
  4. Jamie Smyth, Why Google has brought an ex-gangster to Dublin, Irish Times, 25 June 2011.
  5. Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party, Penguin Ireland, p.425.
  6. Jamie Smyth, Why Google has brought an ex-gangster to Dublin, Irish Times, 25 June 2011.
  7. Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party, Penguin Ireland, p.574.
  8. Dean Godson, Sharp lessons from a turbulent priest, The Times, 23 June 2006.
  9. Malcolm Brodie, British soldier is eighth victim in eight days of violence, Associated Press, 17 August 1991.
  10. John Mullin, PAIR ON RUN FROM IRA KEEP UP THEIR FIGHT, The Guardian, 2 january 1992.
  11. Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party, Penguin Ireland, p.574.
  12. Suzanne Breen, Death - the punishment for being "anti-social", Irish Times, 14 November 1992.
  13. Suzanne Breen, Group seeks Amnesty inquiry into 'interrogations' at SF offices, Irish Times, 14 June 1993.
  14. Sean O'Callaghan, The Informer, Corgi Books, 1999, p.386.
  15. Sean O'Callaghan, The Informer, Corgi Books, 1999, p.395.
  16. Nicholas Watt, IRA kills informer as more youths vanish in Belfast, The Times, 30 April 1994.
  17. Dick Hogan, Confusion over possibility of US group meeting Hume, Irish Times, 25 August 1994.
  18. Gerry Moriarty, Co founder of group against paramilitary intimidation leaves to take up new job, Irish Times, 7 December 1995.
  19. Ruth Dudley Edwards, Hated are the peacemakers; Smears have put members of a small but vocal Irish peace group at risk, The Independent, 3 August 1994.
  20. Ruth Dudley Edwards, Monsignor Denis Faul, Sunday Independent, 25 June 2006.
  21. The Mafia Culture, by Chris McGimpsey, Belfast Telegraph, 15 December 2000.
  22. Allen McDuffeee, Day 1 schedule of Google Ideas conference on de-radicalization, Thinktanked, washingtonpost.com, 27 June 2011.