Nine Derry people face jail for decommissioning weapons


Nine people from Derry are facing jail sentences for their part in ‘decommissioning’ weapons of war. The silence from official Ireland is striking. Not a murmer from Nobel Peace Prize winners John Hume and David Trimble, or from Cowan or Paisley, or Adams or Gormley, or Gilmore or Empey. Not even an empty platitude from Bono or Bob Geldof. Nobody was harmed but computers belonging to a multinational arms firm were tossed from windows and destroyed. It seems that the right of arms dealers to make big profits is a lot more important than the right to life of people in the Lebanon.Raytheon Systems Ltd. is an American defence contractor which specialises in “defence” systems. Their products include Tomahawk cruise missiles, Patriot missiles, “bunker busters” and cluster bombs. They are the world’s number one producer of guided missiles. As well as supplying weapons of mass destruction to the generals in the Pentagon and Whitehall, Raytheon arms oppressive regimes like Israel, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Raytheon is the fifth largest defence contractor in the world and has made huge profits in the aftermath of September 2001. As a company, it derives the bulk of its profits from arms contracts with military states and it is a substantial contributor to both the Republican and the Democrat parties in the US, and the Labour Party in Britain.

As part of the so-called peace dividend, Raytheon established a software development centre in Derry in August 1999. Welcomed by John Hume and David Trimble, and supported by the local council with state funding and grants, the company claimed that there was no arms-related production at the Derry plant. However, in 2006 it emerged that Raytheon has contracts with the British Ministry of Defence to develop software for missile targeting systems. Concerned citizens in Derry came together to form the Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign and have been campaigning against this player in the international arms trade, to end the “exchange of peace at home for war abroad.”

With the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, Raytheon’s weapons have been used to destroy the lives of thousands of innocent civilians in the Middle East. Despite all the marketing hype about how accurate their weapons are, their missiles still aren’t ‘smart’ enough to tell the difference between an ordinary working person’s home and a military facility.

The Middle East is littered with the remains of vicious cluster bombs, many of which remain unexploded and present a deadly threat to civilians trying to carry on their lives. Unexploded cluster bombs are as lethal and as indiscriminate as conventional anti-personnel landmines which have been banned by the Ottawa Treaty in 1999 - even though some imperialist states such as the US and China refuse to sign the Treaty.

On Wednesday August 9th 2006, nine members of the Derry Anti War Coalition (DAWC) non-violently occupied and temporarily closed down the offices of Raytheon at Springtown in Derry. While computer systems were ‘decommissioned’, a larger group of protesters remained outside the premises to show support and explain the action.

The action was part of a wider campaign against the use of Raytheon’s destructive weapons in Lebanon. It took place at the same time that Israel’s bombing of southern Lebanon resulted in the death of more than a thousand civilians. Many more were injured or saw their homes destroyed. 100,000 cluster bombs were dropped in the last three days of the 2006 conflict and it was weapons manufactured by Raytheon which were used in the infamous attack on Qana.

The original charges were of unlawful assembly and aggravated burglary. These are scheduled offences under ‘anti-terrorist’ legislation, meaning that the cases are heard by the infamous jury-less Diplock Courts*. In April 2007, the charges were later reduced to two counts of ‘criminal damage’ and ‘affray’, which means they will be tried in a regular jury court.

The original bail conditions set by the courts were extremely oppressive: The defendants were prevented from meeting with each other, holding meetings in groups of more than three, or from attending anti-war functions.

These conditions - in breach of our supposed basic human right to freedom of assembly - were later dropped However a gagging order was placed on the media by the Judge, Corinna Philpot, forbidding reporting of anything to do with the action or Raytheon in Ireland. Part of the aim of the action was to educate local Derry people about the role Raytheon play in the destruction of peoples’ lives around the world but the gagging order made it very difficult for people to find out what is happening. Eventually, this bizarre and indefensible gag was lifted in February following an application for judicial review of the gag by Shane O’Curry, a member of both the WSM and the Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign.

After almost two years of being dragged out, the trial of the Raytheon 9, is due to take place on Monday May 19th. The trial will be in Belfast after the Prosecution Service applied to have it moved with the argument that a jury from Derry may be too sympathetic to the action or 'intimidated' by the level of support for the Raytheon 9 due to all the protests held outside at court hearings that took place since the action.

The Raytheon Nine would appreciate messages of support from anti-war campaigners and can be contacted at Journalist and socialist Eammon McCann has written a pamphlet titled Resisting War Crimes Is Not a Crime: The Raytheon 9 which can be obtained for £2 / €3 from the Derry Anti War Coalition at the above address or from Anti War Ireland ( You can also buy it via Paypal on

*Diplock Courts are jury-less courts set up in the 1970s to deal with political prisoners in Northern Ireland

This article is from Workers Solidarity 103, May - June 2008

PDF of the southern edition of WS103
PDF of northern edition of WS103