Dungiven internees held in Ballykelly

A street protest at Free Derry Corner which took place just hours after the introduction of internment on August 9, 1971.
A street protest at Free Derry Corner which took place just hours after the introduction of internment on August 9, 1971.

Two Dungiven men who were among the first internees in 1971 have recalled their time in Ballykelly as news emerges today of evidence of a secret deep interrogation centre there, used to hold the 12 ‘hooded men’ .

The evidence has been uncovered by researchers from Derry’s Pat Finucane Centre.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday, the men, both 24 on August 9, 1971, recalled how they were driven to Ballykelly in the back of a lorry with at least half a dozen other men from Dungiven.

“It was about half four in the morning, in fact I wasn’t that long in bed when there was a knock on the door. I answered and there were about six British soldiers.

“They stated my name and told me I was being arrested. They let me get dressed and then put a hood over my head; knotted it and then put a second hood over that,” said the man, who was interned for 10 months.

Once the lorry arrived at Ballykelly the man said he was pushed from the back of the lorry and taken to a room.

In there, he was unhooded and placed in front of a black curtain.

“There was a wee hole in it and some RUC Special Branch man standing on the other side looking out at me. That was to identify you were the right person picked up,” he said, explaining he was involved in the Civil Rights movement.

The man said he was held in Ballykelly for several hours and then taken to Magilligan Prison; kept there for a few days and questioned.

“They asked you all sorts of silly questions, but the answer was always ‘no’,” he said.

The man was then helicoptered to the prison ship Maidstone in Belfast harbour where he was detained beneath deck for 23 hours a day until Long Kesh opened.

“The soldiers arrested us but they had no authority to do that, but we knew Internment was coming.

It was the whole thing about being taken without charge, no trial and no release date,” said the man.

Another Dungiven man lifted on the same morning recalls his experience.

“I was the first in the lorry and they laid me face down on the floor and I remember heating up because I was on top of the engine.

“They stamped on my head and pulled my hair, but they never hooded me,” said the man.

Both men say they remained calm that time and were aware of other men being taken for interrogation and subjected to different torture methods such as isolation, high noise and bright lights.