Belfast Telegraph

'State torture ruined dad's health' court hears from daughter

By Alan Erwin

One of 14 men allegedly tortured during internment in Northern Ireland was bitten by a soldier's dog and had to drink from the animal's dish, the High Court has heard.

School caretaker Sean McKenna was also slammed into concrete posts and made to go barefoot after being taken from his Newry home in August 1971, it was claimed yesterday.

Lawyers for his daughter argued that the interrogation techniques "ruined" him and worsened a heart condition that led his death four years later at the age of 45.

Mary McKenna is taking legal action along with other surviving members of the so-called Hooded Men in a bid to secure an independent and human rights-compliant investigation into their treatment.

Proceedings have been issued against the Chief Constable, Secretary of State and the Department of Justice over alleged failures to properly probe and order a full inquiry.

Five techniques were said to have been used against the men while they were held without trial: being hooded and made to stand in a stress position against a wall and beaten if they fell; forced to listen to constant loud static noise; and deprived of sleep, food and water.

Counsel for the group claim they were tortured using methods sanctioned by the British State. Former British Prime Minister Edward Heath was allegedly involved in the decision-making process, while Stormont's Prime Minister at the time, Brian Faulkner, was said to have been personally briefed on the deployment of the methods.

Ms McKenna's legal representatives argued that her case also raises a potential breach of Article 2 right to life under European law.

The court heard she was 14-years-old when her father and brother were both taken from their house by British soldiers. In a statement, she recalled her father turning around and telling her he would be back in a couple of hours.

But when she did see him again, 10 days later in Belfast's Crumlin Road Jail, he was "a very broken man".

Reading from her affidavit, barrister Karen Quinlivan QC said: "He was sitting crying and was very shaky.

"I remember him telling me that he had been hooded and handcuffed to a British soldier who had an Alsatian dog with him.

"He told me that the dog had been allowed to bite him and that he had been required to drink from the same dish as the dog."

Her father had allegedly been forced to run barefoot up and down while the dog was attacking him.

"He also told me that the army would smack him into a concrete post," she added.

Ms McKenna stressed that no one should have been subjected to this torture, but described her father as particularly vulnerable due to his heart condition.

His internment ended in May 1972, when he was released on medical grounds to enter a psychiatric hospital.

"My father had been a great man before he had been interned, but that man never returned to us," Ms McKenna said.

The hearing continues.

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