Northern Ireland news

British government apology for 'torture' of north Belfast man

Jim McDonald pictured yesteday in his north Belfast home with his apology letters. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

THE British government has apologised to a Catholic man who was ‘tortured' by members of the Parachute Regiment 44 years ago.

Former docker James McDonald received his long-awaited apology from British armed forces minister Penny Mordaunt last month.

The north Belfast man made headlines in December 1971 when he was badly beaten and tortured by members of the notorious British army regiment after walking into a checkpoint in Earl Street as he made his way to work close to the docks.

One British soldier was convicted for his part in the brutal assault and given a six-month sentence.

Speaking to the Irish News last night Mr McDonald said he was “overjoyed” after receiving the apology.

“I never forgot this,” he said. "Something like that is an experience. It was shocking and it was terrifying at the time but I didn't let them break me."

During his ordeal Mr McDonald was made to stand in the stress position, punched, kicked and burned by cigarettes by members of the patrol.

He was also verbally abused and called a “Fenian b*****d” and forced to say “F**k the Pope” while a loaded gun was later put in his mouth.

In a further humiliating act he was urinated on by members of the unit.

During his ordeal, which lasted two and a half hours, he was shown pornographic pictures while soldiers put their hands down his trousers which the 70-year-old believes amounted to a "sexual assault."

His treatment was later described by a judge as "barbarous" and a minor form of torture.

Mr McDonald received his apology after the Pat Finucane Centre wrote to Secretary of State Theresa Villiers on his behalf.

Spokesman Paul O'Connor said: “The other positive thing to come out of it is that the government accepts that more than one soldier was involved in this incident.”

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