Socialist Worker

The Troublemaker—Para proud of role of soldiers who kept a skull for an ashtray

Issue No. 2654

Some of the victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre

Some of the victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre


Henry Thornton, from south Armagh, was shot as he travelled along Belfast’s Springfield Road in August 1971.

Former British paratrooper Henry Gow told a coroner’s court last week how a colleague recovered part of the skull of Henry Thornton, and used it as an ashtray.

Details of the disturbing actions of British soldiers were raised at an inquest into the killing of ten people over three days in Ballymurphy, in West Belfast, in 1971 by the Parachute Regiment.

Gow had previously recounted the episode in his autobiography Killing Zone.

During questioning this week Gow said that a “sweepstake” was run by his unit to reward soldiers who “got a kill”. Henry Gow, whose company of the Parachute Regiment was not involved in the Ballymurphy shootings, said the winner “got the pot” and would use the money to “go for a piss-up”.

The former policeman, SAS member and ­paratrooper said in his book that the soldiers there were “on a high”.

Gow said that West Belfast “went insane” during riots, and said that “on the day of internment, everybody on the street was an enemy”.

Gow said he had been told by many of the men involved that they “only shot at armed people” and that the woman killed was armed with a gun.

None of those killed were armed. When pressed on the names of those who had carried out the shootings, he told the court he could not recall them.

Barristers representing a number of the families accused Gow of lying to the coroner’s court.

Gow said he had not wanted to appear at the inquest but had been summonsed to do so and that he believed it to be a “witch hunt”.

Gow also claimed that “the people of West Belfast should be thankful for the discipline of the British army”.


Posh children are not getting enough breaks

Will no one think of the posh children? The recruitment by Oxford and Cambridge of more state pupils has led to private-school children being edged out by “social engineering”.

Anthony Wallersteiner, head of Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, said that access plans had “successfully driven down the number of Oxbridge places awarded to privately educated pupils”.

He told The Times, “The rise of populists and polemicists has created a micro-industry in bashing private schools.

“Some of the criticisms echo the conspiratorial language of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

“It was relatively easy for Hitler and his henchmen to suggest that the Jewish minority was over-represented in key professions—medicine, law, teaching and the creative industries.

“Privately educated pupils are also being accused of dominating the top jobs and stifling social mobility.”


£6,500 Hillsborough health and safety fine

Graham Mackrell has been fined £6,500 for a safety breach relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

He was also ordered to pay £5,000 prosecution costs.

Some 96 Liverpool fans died after being crushed in two pens at Sheffield Wednesday’s football stadium.

A jury last month found that Mackrell failed to ensure there were enough turnstiles to prevent unduly large crowds building up.

He was the club safety officer at the time of the disaster and is the first person to be convicted of an offence relating to it.

The jury failed to reach a verdict in the case of former police match commander David Duckenfield, who faced charges of manslaughter by gross negligence.

A hearing to decide whether Duckenfield will face a retrial is expected to take place next month.


  • The latest company to shift HQ and blame Brexit for publicity reasons is Caversham Insurance (Malta). That is the insurance wing of BrightHouse, a “rent-to-own” company that targets low income households by offering goods on eye-wateringly high weekly credit rates.

But worry not. It is moving from low-tax Malta to the tax haven of Gibraltar. But at least it’s a British overseas tax haven.

  • Nigel Farage has been barred from his local pub in Westerham, Kent, after being accused of leaving the scene of a car crash involving the landlord and his 13 month old son.

Patrick Tranter said the Brexit Party leader "upped and left", but Farage said he had checked on the family's welfare first.


Prince Charles and the child abusing priest

Prince Charles misused his influence to shield Peter Ball, a former Anglican bishop, from punishment after the cleric admitted sexually abusing a young man.

The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse concluded last week that “the actions of the Prince of Wales were misguided”.

The report details a powerful old boys’ network that mobilised to defend Ball, who was first accused of sexual misconduct in 1969 but continued to rise through the church hierarchy for two decades.

Upon being appointed bishop of Gloucester in 1991, he was warned that “there should be no more boys,” the inquiry found.

In 1993 Ball admitted to an act of gross indecency and accepted a police caution. He was forced to step down as bishop, but returned within two years.

In 2015 Ball pled guilty to indecent assault and misconduct in public office in connection with the abuse of 16 boys and men who had come to him for spiritual guidance.

Ball was friends with the headmasters of many of the country’s most prestigious schools, and belonged to a private dining club called Nobody’s Friends.

It met twice a year at the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ball lived in one of Prince Charles’s properties from the late 1990s until 2011. After he was forced to step down as bishop of Gloucester, the prince lobbied for him.

“I wish I could do more,” the prince wrote.

“I feel so desperately strongly about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you and the way you have been treated.”


The things they say

‘Corbygeddon’

An unnamed tax advisor in the Sunday Times newspaper explaining why they are taking clients’ money out the country

‘You have to put yourself forward —no one else will’

Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury and would-be Tory leader

‘I’m too brown for the right— but not brown enough for the left’

Tory leadership contender and home secretary Sajid Javid

‘What the fuck is wrong with her? That’s insane’

Guillaume McLaughlin, European Union Brexit negotiator, rages over Theresa May in a documentary after being told a deal is off because the PM hadn’t cleared the details with the DUP

‘It’s been a historic week for English football, inspiring children, adults, prime ministers’

Theresa May kicks a ball to prove a point or something


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