IMAGINE before you were born, your father was a political prisoner.

Imagine, he and his comrades started a riot inside the prison they were held in– their only weapons being their fists and anything not nailed down.

Imagine a scene from Saving Private Ryan – only taking place on a football pitch on the outskirts of Belfast.

Imagine three sides. The republican side – which commenced this planned attack. They knew they would be beaten but vowed to fight til the death. As long as they did enough damage to make the news, they had a victory. Their aim is to take over the prison by burning the overcrowded cages they were held in, running at the prison guards with pieces of bed frames – hoping to burn the place to the ground and break a guards arm or two.

Picture credit: An Phoblacht
Picture credit: An Phoblacht

The army is sent in, retaliating with a full arsenal of helicopters, plastic bullets, war dogs and gas bombs.

Then on the third side – the loyalist prisoners watching, wondering whom to join if need be.

The army already knew there was going to be a riot at some stage. Over a period of time, they created a pressure cooker inside the jail; they filled cages with the interned and the sentenced. Some were innocent and some were guilty. The army Majors already had a different crowd control weapon they wanted to test out. They just needed an opportunity. This was it.

Their weapon was known in munitions circles as Dibenzoxazepine. Commonly known as CR gas. It was first used in Vietnam by the American military. Infertility and cancer were the known side effects.

Imagine, your father throwing a make shift spear at the rotors of a hovering helicopter. He doesn’t care if the chopper crashes and lands on him, he’ll be known as the one that took down a helicopter with his hands. An SAS agent leans out and throws a canister at him. The canister erupts and breaks into lots of small bombs of yellow gas. The chopper rises and watches the aftermath. Everyone within meters is immediately incapacitated. The CR gas is getting into your fathers nervous system and making its way into every organ in his body.

Picture credit: An Phoblacht
Picture credit: An Phoblacht

Imagine your father was unaware that the toxic gas was lying dormant but ready to end his life forty years after that one riot in Long Kesh on October 14, 1974.

He and his surviving comrades only realising the connection after attending the funerals of those they fought with on the pitch that day. Realising every single person they mourned – all died within months of a terminal cancer diagnosis.

He knows it’s coming for him and he wants justice. He investigates through public records and proves that gas was used on him that day. He finds out through ex-prisoners groups that both loyalist and republican prisoners had blood samples taken after the attack. The samples were to compare who was exposed and who wasn’t. Together they find that they were partaking in clinical trials against their will. They were terrorists in the eyes of the government and worthy of dying from cancer at a later date.

Imagine being an XY or XX chromosome and your life has been planned out for you by an SAS agent in a British Army helicopter. They knew this type of gas was toxic and they pre-programmed your DNA with cancer – all because they see your father as a terrorist.

This is the case for anyone whose father was a British Army guinea pig. This is the case for me.


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