Bloodstains in Ulster: The Notorious Case of Robert the Painter


Bloodstains in Ulster" recounts the remarkable true story of one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice in Northern Ireland's long troubled history. The book recovers from near-oblivion the case of Robert Taylor, known in the media as Robert the Painter, who was sentenced to death in Belfast for the savage premeditated murder of Mrs Mary McGowan and then in January 1950 released on a technicality. The defence revealed that contrary to the judge's express instructions the jurymen and their four RUC keepers had on two occasions separated and spoken to members of the public while on an evening break, thus infringing a rule then operative in Northern Ireland. Having had two trials, Taylor could not be tried again. Taylor was a Protestant from a hotly Loyalist ghetto, his victim a Catholic, and all the evidence suggests that not only was the judicial process deliberately sabotaged but also that the appeal judges (members of the Grand Lodge Committee of the Orange Order) turned a blind eye to that fact. Taylor returned to his ghetto as a hero. His release was accepted in sullen silence by the Nationalist minority; it fitted with their conception of the way things were. The case riveted the attention of the divided community for six months, but was subsequently forgotten in the turmoil of the Troubles. Yet it was an omen of 1969, when Nationalist alienation from the state, the judiciary, and the RUC exploded in demands for justice and civil rights, only to be met by Loyalist indignation (orchestrated by Dr Paisley), police partiality, burnings and evictions, and the renaissance of the IRA. Uniquely, the Taylor case, although it turned on the fate of two socially insignificant individuals, is a single episode which encapsulates in itself the essential meaning of Northern Ireland's history from 1920 to the start of the Troubles.