The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Danger to Society

Book Review

Danger to Society - Elaine Moore's Story. By Tony Mc Cullagh. ISBN 1-903582-47-4. Merlin Publishing

Chrissie McGlinchey • Fortnight

Elaine Moore is a twenty one year old girl, born and raised in a North Dublin suburb, who finds herself living in London because of a job opportunity too good to miss. She makes a number of acquaintances after arriving and soon has a number of close friends and develops an especially close friendship with Rory Hearty, a man from the North of Ireland. She settles into a daily routine of working and socialising, and becomes part of the Irish community in London.

This is how Tony McCullagh introduces Elaine Moore in his book, Danger to Society - Elaine Moore's Story. He goes on to detail the events which led to her arrest on the 10th of July 1998 and her subsequent detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the campaign which followed to secure her release. He portrays her as a friendly and hospitable person, and it is these qualities which inevitability helped to seal her fate. She is approached one day by an old school friend of her brother's who needs a place to stay. A week later the same man, Tony Hyland, returns to London to intrude on her hospitality once again. Elaine dutifully lets him stay. The next day she is arrested at work, unsure of the reasons why. She finds herself embroiled in an Irish republican bombing plot, one in which she is heavily implicated by police. A self-professed pacifist she says of the experience "Being accused of such dreadful acts stripped me of my life as I knew it." The details of her arrest and interrogation over the next four days give an interesting insight into the mentality of the British security system and its attitude towards Irish people in general. This attitude almost borders on the ridiculous with posters of Michael Collins found in Elaine's room being cited as republican paraphernalia and a gold pendant shaped as a map of Ireland being a secret symbol for the 32 County Sovereignty Committee. Elaine was charged, along with the three Irishmen eventually sentenced, with conspiring to cause an explosion and possession of explosive substances with intent to endanger lives. She was remanded to Woodhill Prison, a men's prison where she was detained for several weeks, before being granted bail.

Tony Mc Cullagh gives a detailed description of the loneliness and isolation she experienced while in prison, as well as the humiliation and degradation she was subjected to. However, throughout the book he makes constant comparisons to the cases of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six. True that Elaine Moore shared the same legal representation as both groups but I'm afraid that's where the similarities between them end. The reader has to bear in mind that although Elaine Moore, like the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, was wrongly charged when she was completely innocent, unlike them she was vindicated in a matter of months when she was released and all charges were dropped. She didn't spend almost two decades in an English prison fully aware of her innocence.

I also feel that too much emphasis is put on small details which takes away from more important things. For example the details of her brother watching "In the Name of the Father" immediately before his arrest and his wearing a T-shirt with a Tricolour on it are not crucial to the description of the arrest and don't really add to the reader's empathy with Elaine's family. Details like the ridiculous attitude of the judge during the renewal of Elaine's bail, which saw her being remanded in custody on the slightest of details, or the later revelation that an undercover policewoman had attempted to rent the extra room in the flat should have been explored in more depth.

Tony Mc Cullagh's book Danger to Society - Elaine Moore's Story contains all the facts about Elaine's case and her experience. However, as harrowing as that experience may have been I can't help but feel that his analysis of these events is just slightly exaggerated. Without being spiteful, I feel that Tony Mc Cullagh loses all perspective in drawing comparisons with the cases of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six. Although Elaine Moore was justifiably upset by her experiences while in custody, one must bear in mind that the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six were all badly beaten so as to obtain confessions, and were all subsequently sentenced to between fourteen and eighteen years respectively. This is not to mention the fact that Giuseppe Conlon died while serving this sentence, more than likely as a result of injuries received while held in custody. Elaine Moore on the other hand spent a total of twenty three days in custody and although understandably the daily strip searches were upsetting and humiliating for her I feel that Tony Mc Cullagh should have stuck to the facts rather than speculate over what could have happened to her.

I have to admit that I was quite disappointed with this book, as it had the potential to be of benefit to anyone interested in the treatment of foreign nationals in Britain, particularly during the current climate of draconian "anti-terrorist legislation". Instead this book tries too hard to portray the victim as an attractive young wallflower, caught up in a vicious world of ruthless bombers, 'mean' judges and evil screws. Mc Cullagh loses sight of the fact that this treatment could have been meted out on anyone, not just a former model from a middle-class background with a respectable job. If Elaine had been an ugly, common middle-aged woman would her treatment have been any less harsh or unjustified?






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

24 May 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Tipping Over Cash Cows
Seaghán Ó Murchú


Dying Easily
Anthony McIntyre


Danger to Society
Chrissie McGlinchey


The Moral Failure of the "Free World" in Gaza
Ghali Hassan


Colin Powell, DOA
Paul de Rooij


The Letters page has been updated.


21 May 2004

Portlaoise Prison and Compassionate Parole
Anthony McIntyre


New Republican Protest Looms in Maghaberry
Martin Mulholland, IRPWA


Computer Enchanced?
George Young


A Comic Apology?
M. Shahid Alam


Lessons from Vietnam
Liam O Ruairc




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