Conspiracy of Silence; UFOs in Ireland

conspiracy of silence, UFOs in IrelandI wrote this review of Conspiracy of Silence; UFOs in Ireland by Dermot Butler and Carl Nally about a year ago for Fortean Times – and completely forgot to publish in Blather! Of course, that’s all because blather.net is part of an Irish government conspiracy to suppress the proof that extra-terrestrials are visiting this very parish, I’ll have you know.


The authors of Conspiracy of Silence set their stall out early, the cover showing a sinister black triangle – with conspicuous red lights on each corner – hovering above Newgrange, the 5,000 year old passage grave in County Meath. Inside, the thesis continues, with ufologist Timothy Good’s foreword stating “in this ground-breaking book, Dermot Butler and Carl Nally have shown us that, in company with many other governments, the Irish authorities have made strenuous efforts to keep its populace in the dark”.

The authors, Butler and Nally – both of whom have been knocking around the Irish UFO scene for years – have also been making strenuous efforts, to prove the existence of such a conspiracy. Unfortunately, their allegations fail to convince. I’m not going to diss Conspiracy of Silence completely – it’s a fairly comprehensive potted history of UFO sightings in Ireland – the authors know their subject well, and have obviously spent years doggedly investigating UFO sightings, digging up dusty government files and corresponding with members of the security forces, the civil service and other Irish government agencies. One of the more notable cases covered is the intriguing 1996 “Boyle Crash” – a story I heard through the UFO rumour-mill at the time, about the alleged crashing of something into mountains in County Roscommon, and the subsequent arrival of foreign military forces, to the apparent chagrin of Irish troops and police.

However, the problem with the book isn’t so much lack of research, as its biased interpretation of facts in order to fit them into the ‘conspiracy’ agenda. In the dozens of UFO reports collected in Conspiracy of Silence, most are reproduced without question, ditching examination of the factors surrounding each given situation in exchange for an air reverence, deference and unquestioning respect for the witnesses. The authors are far too credulous of testimonies that fit their agenda – and too sceptical of the reports that don’t.

Of course, respect for the testimony of witnesses is important – often these people have had traumatic experiences and have come forward despite fear of ridicule or official sanction. Fair enough, but Butler and Nally do not appear to question any of the testimonies – apparently on the basis that if, well, they were bothered to come forward, they must be telling the truth. All witness testimony is automatically regarded as objective truth – and as readers of Fortean Times [and Blather] well know, the situation is rarely that simple. The authors seem hesitant to suggest that any of their witnesses could be mistaken, lying, crazy, or even part of the conspiracy.

There’s a twisted logic here – on one hand, the testimony of professional witnesses – such as pilots and Garda officers (police), or other traditional authority figures – are taken at face value. On the other hand, if a UFO report is explained away by the members of the authorities, they’re automatically assumed – usually through a series of rhetorical questions to the reader – to be servants of a grand conspiracy.

In case after case, the authors write to the Gardai, army and government departments, asking questions. In many situations, such as in the “Boyle UFO Crash” excitement, they receive vague, confusing and often contradictory information from the various official sources, leading them to believe that someone is trying to cover something up. Personally, I find the inconsistency of official sources unsurprising – in fact, if everyone in officialdom delivered precisely the same answer to my queries, then I definitely would suspect a conspiracy!

Instead, I suspect that the mysteries of the civil service are at work – a chaotic bureaucratic phenomenon not confined to Ireland. The final irony is that researchers like Dermot Butler and Carl Nally seem to crave official recognition – by the very authorities they accuse of conspiring to misinform the public.
For all the conspiracy-mongering, the authors appear cautious about assuming that extraterrestrials are visiting Ireland.. Yet, while reading the section where the book actually discusses the extraterrestrial hypothesis, I found myself convinced that I had missed several pages. I hadn’t. Flicking back, the authors skip from a broad discussion on the possibility of finding life on other planets, into a bizarre and unquestioning treatise on the abduction phenomenon – without any explanation of the nature or history of the phenomenon. I can’t help suspecting that the Butler and Nally, in their quest for official acceptance of their allegations, believe far more than they’re willing to let on.

Conspiracy of Silence, I’m afraid, is a flawed book, with a very tenuous agenda and some terrible factual errors. For instance, in a section on the possible connection between UFO sightings and ancient sites, they claim that Navan Fort (Emain Macha) a Neolithic to Bronze Age structure is in Navan, Co. Meath. In fact, it’s in Co. Armagh, in Northern Ireland, and is nowhere near Navan or Co. Meath at all. It just happens to have the same name – an assumption easily checked via Google or a map. The fact that Navan Fort was an integral site in the mythological Ulster Cycle should have also been a clue.
Ireland is a small island, with a small population – including Northern Ireland; it’s just six million people. News tends gets around quite easily – so the idea of a widespread entire government cover-up that includes the rank-and-file of the security forces seems slightly absurd. But then, maybe that’s what the conspiracy wants us to think, eh?

That said, it’s a well-known fact that the US and other countries use Irish airspace and airports for military overflights, a matter of ongoing controversy in what is supposed to be a neutral country. Given the reticence of the Irish government to discuss the landing of US troop planes at Shannon, it’s little wonder that not much is said about military activities. But could so many UFO sightings be connected to US military aircraft? It seems unlikely.
Perhaps the biggest mistake of this book is to assume that the Irish government, or for that matter, any government, truly understands the UFO phenomenon. At best, Conspiracy of Silence is a indispensable example of contemporary folklore at work. But what would I know? I’m probably just an unwitting dupe of the conspiracy…

conspiracy of silence, UFOs in IrelandGuess what! We have a copy in stock here at Blather High Command. €10 – a bargain!





Dermot Butler, Carl Nally
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Mercier Press (Jun 2006)
ISBN: 1856355098
Full list of UFO features on blather.net, including lots of Irish stuff »
September 2007: Irish UFO Dossier released »

daev
Chief Bottle Washer at Blather

Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and “known troublemaker” Dave Walsh is the founder of Blather.net, described both as “possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River”, and “the nicest website circulating in Ireland”. Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.


10 comments

  1. Having cast a jaundiced eye for many years on many of those who populate the UFO scene, I had thought that my capacity to be amazed had long since abandoned me. Not so, I can now report, thanks to the unintentionally amusing (and at times truly baffling) so-called ‘review’ that was given to the ‘Conspiracy of Silence’ book by daev recently. It seems tht as soon as someone, anyone at all, attempts to put together a book on Irelands’s UFO situation, there’s always someone, somewhere, who thinks that they know the subject better. True to form, such self-appointed ‘experts’ shift in their comfortable armchairs, switch on their computers, and snipe away from the safe, dark recesses of the cyberspace. It seems to me that daev- never just plain old ‘Dave’, ofcourse, is the kind of chap who doesn’t actually go out into the real world to conduct any on-site UFO research work of his own. It’s much easier to let others do that.
    So, what is wrong with his tirade? For a start, he takes a full fifteen months to actually bother publishing it. He tells us that he forgot but I am not so sure. One has to wonder just how strongly he really believes in his opinions, if it has taken him so long to get around to putting them on line. It’s as though he’s not really all that pushed about it, a point that may be indicated by the failure to illustrate the book’s cover properly. I presume that the edition I bought in London is the same as that published over in Ireland. If so, then how come there are clouds above the triangular UFO on Dave’s- sorry, daev’s -version of the book, and how come Timothy Good’s name has also vanished from it? To me, this looks like the lazy inclusion of an old advert, a pre-publication version of the book’s artwork. What’s more, he includes a note that the book has 192 pages. My copy has over 230.Good grief, couldn’t he at least bother checking such elementary things?
    As his review progresses, he remarks that the authors’ “allegations” fail to convince. A cursory glance in a dictionary will show that a conspiracy does NOT necessarily consist of either a whole government or the entire rank and file of a nation’s military or law enforcement establishment. The authors never said it does. Couldn’t the title of the book not refer also to the broader conspiracy of silence among a populace in which, over decades, or centuries, such things just weren’t spoken about? In my opinion, this is why Butler and Nally refer briefly to the traditional acceptance of religion (and religious phenomena ) in Ireland, but UFOs were a no-no.
    It is also a mystery to me why daev has such a problem with the witness testimony of so many people being accepted by the authors. He complains about it, then in the next paragraph this changes to his understaning of the need to “respect the testimony” of witnesses. It seems to me that the authors are in a no-win situation with daev, and maybe in his ideal world NO witnesses would be believed, thus eliminating the UFO puzzle in one go. Shortly after reading the book a year ago, when daev was otherwise occupied and so didn’t treat the waiting world to his infallible words, I emailed the authors on this very point. Their answer pointed out that yes, they DO come across cases that aren’t believed- and these did not appear in the book. But ofcourse,daev would say, this would be due to the fact that such testimonies didn’t fit their ‘agenda’, whatever that’s supposed to be. In any event , if such tales WERE included, daev would probably call them all lies, mistaken observations, or craziness, just because they have the temerity not to concur with his own ideas. One can’t have it both ways,daev. As you feel so strongly about it, I’m sure that by now you MUST have used the contact details in the book to put some queries to the authors about this. Mind you, it’s only those who have gone out to interview many dozens of UFO witnesses over many years who have come across such testimony at firsthand, so maybe you’re excused on that count. UFO witnesses should not, he feels, be believed. Yet daev never mentions that HE has had no problems whatsoever in the past with taking witness reports of lake monsters, no less, at face value. Hence his taking part in a monster-hunting expedition some years ago with a certain well-known Scandinavian researcher. UFO’s can be dismissed, but lake monsters are real. Talk about twisted logic….
    His point about the tangled bureaucracy of every country’s civil service is valid, and I’m well used to it, I can tell you. Yet he seems to think that such red tape and pen-pushing incompetence has been discarded as a factor in the conflicting answers from officialdom to the authors’ questions. Not so, and this is best illustrated in their comments concerning the crossing of the border by the British Army patrol, when the Irish government couldn’t make its own mind up as to whether it (officially) happened.
    The relentless ramblings also state that the authors “seem to crave” official recognition. How so? Because they actually bother to go and ask questions of the authorities about UFOs while daev does nothing at all? I’m sure that many citizens ask their governments all sort of questions, and so they should. When I worked over in Cork, about six or seven years ago, daev craved the (brief) attention of a television camera. I remember his razor sharp ‘expert’ opinion on UFO’s, all thirty or so seconds of it, being given on a documentary. Wow, absolutely brilliant. Thankfully, with the release of this boook in 2006, the standard of UFO research over in Ireland has improved dramatically.
    Still, some people are just never happy, with daev launching into an attack about the “biased interpretaion” of facts. This is called putting forward an argument, and it’s good that people like daev disagree with the stated viewpoint. The world would be a dull place without debate, so now our grumbling critic has the perfect opportuntiy to produce his OWN book, arguing against Bultler and Nally’s premise, and using the reams of Irish UFO research that daev MUST have someplace. Or maybe he’s an empty vessel.
    The book, we are (un)reliably told, has some “terrible factual errors”. So what are these erors, precisely? Even five or six will do. Er, no…he produces ONE, in which the authors place Navan Fort in the wrong location. Of course, this exact point was also raised by another blogger, over a year ago. A sheer coincidence, I’m sure, as daev would never stoop so low for material that he’d plagiarise someone else’s critique.
    It’s ironic that he speaks of the book containing errors, when his very own paragraphs are littered with mistakes of their own. For example, what does “News tends gets around easily” mean? Or “a indispensable example” for that matter? Who are “the Butler and Nally” he mentions, and why does “Carl” become “Karl”? On this form, maybe daev penning his own book really isn’t a good idea, after all.
    All in all, his piece was fun to read, if way off the mark. Like it or not, the authors have done a good turn for the study of this sunbject in Ireland. I found their book informative, and I wish them well in the future. As for Dave Walsh, he ought to stick to doing what he does best. He should leave UFOs to people who actually KNOW somthing about the subject, and carry on snapping pictures of cut animals for environmemtal group. Or maybe scantily-dressed burlesque performers-purely for artistic reasons, ofcourse.
    Dave Walsh-“talkingshitesince1997”. You bet.

  2. “One of the reasons for conspiracy theories is an assumption that people in high places always know what they are doing. When they do something that makes no sense, devious reasons are imagined by conspiracy theorists, when in fact it may be due to plain old
    ignorance and incompetence.”
    Thomas Sowell
    Wait… who made the aliens? Are we in bed with the creationists now? I’d just like to know who I’m sleeping?

  3. “One of the reasons for conspiracy theories is an assumption that people in high places always know what they are doing. When they do something that makes no sense, devious reasons are imagined by conspiracy theorists, when in fact it may be due to plain old
    ignorance and incompetence.”
    Thomas Sowell
    Wait… who made the aliens? Are we in bed with the creationists now? I’d just like to know who I’m sleeping with?

  4. Daev is spelled Daev because there are too many Daves. Don’t you know the Dr Seuss story about 23 Daves? Anyway, he adopted the moniker in the early days of the net when it was compulsory (remember Da5id in Snow Crash?). His UFO credentials are pretty good… Fortean Times and all that. He can’t be responsible for you having a different edition of the book to yours. He also can’t be held responsible for how TV documentaries edit interviews. You don’t mention what YOUR credentials are, but you do not seem to address the fundamental point that an eyewitness account of what someone saw in the sky tells us little if anything of what is actually *there* in the sky. Even if you accept an eyewitness account as 100% reliable, IT TELLS YOU NOTHING. It is perception not cognition. There is no evidence that the authorities know what it is people are seeing either. And this of course is compounded by the fact that there occasionally must be weird events that authorities DO know something about (like perhaps the Boyle incident in I think it was ’96). You also mistakenly believe Dave (ok, let’s call him that?) believes in lake monsters for some reason. You have obviously not read or seen the coverage of the Norwegian lake monster saga, in which Dave – bravely – played quite a sceptical role. OK Dave gave only one example of a factual error, and you demand 5 or 6. He *may* have been negligent there (hardly, in my view) but even in scholarly circles there’s an unwritten rule that you back up what you say by giving 2 examples. 5 or 6 would be seen as excessive and really boring.

  5. Dear Mr/Ms. Young, plain old Dave here, at your service.
    I am terribly sorry to hear about your jaundiced eye. I’m not a doctor, but from what I understand, gallstones may be to be blame. Perhaps you should have it checked out? I wish you a recovery of considerable velocity.
    I have to say, I’m terribly flattered – you’ve written a 1300 word critique of a 1100 word review – very impressive. I will respond to as much of it as I can.
    Firstly, I take umbrage at your reference my review of Conspiracy of Silence as “unintentionally amusing”. Nothing could be further from the truth. I set out with my tongue firmly in my cheek when writing that review. The clue’s in website’s name: Blather. We specialise in tirades. We try to be funny, really, we do. Still, we recognise talent when we encounter it – your comment has had us in convulsions here at all morning at Blather High Command. Several pairs of silk underwear have had to be changed, and Dr DeBarra has finally succeeded in sedating the typing pool.
    Blather’s founding principles can be found here.
    In brief, it says that Blather is a publication of the Gutter which aims to achieve ‘entirely new levels in everything which is contemptible, despicable and unspeakable in contemporary journalism. Blather has no principles, no honour, no shame its objects are the fostering of graft and corruption in public life, the furtherance of cant and hypocrisy, the encouragement of humbug and hysteria, the glorification of greed and gombeenism. We are not above the fondling of brown envelopes either.
    Even Lonely Planet understood that we’re having a laugh:
    “This wry website dishes out healthy portions of irreverent commentary on all things Irish. It’s a savvy way to get up to date on current events and attitudes”
    I don’t claim to the UFO scene any better than the authors of Conspiracy of Silence. Rather them than me, to be honest. I read the book firstly because I was sent a review copy, and because I used to have a passing interest in the matter of UFOs. To be honest, I don’t really have *that* much of an interest any more, so I read the book in an open-minded fashion, and really criticised the book where I felt the cases it made were weak. So yes, maybe I wasn’t “really all that pushed about it”. Tough titty.
    You complain that I criticise “attempts to put together a book on Irelands’s UFO situation” (sic). Anything, and everything is open to criticism – especially here at Blather, a well-known den of vice, envy and sour grapes. If I was to follow your apparent line of thought, then we would be giving standing ovations to the Irish national rugby and soccer squads just for gettingonto the playing field without being dressed by their mammies, rather than giving out giving them shit over the godforsaken mess they’ve made of their various tournaments.
    I’m not sure where you’re pulling the “full fifteen months to actually bother publishing it” malarkey – my records show that I posted my review to Fortean Times on 19th October 2006, which is just over 12 months ago. It was published in a subsequent issue of that Magazine. It’s not that I didn’t bother to publish it in Blather – I quite simply forgot. So sue me.
    Belief is dangerous thing, I don’t like to partake in it all. You “wonder just how strongly he really believes in his opinions” – well I’ll tell you this – I don’t believe in them at all – they’re just opinions, not doctrines, gospels, tooth fairies or life after death. One makes an opinion, one isn’t required to believe that opinion. Or so I believe.
    I have no idea what was on the cover of the book you bought in London, but feel free to show us, if it makes you feel important. The cover I used is the same as what was on Amazon.co.uk
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1856355098/blatherparanorma which I’m fairly sure is the same as the cover I have. I’m not at home right now, so I can’t check.
    Are you suggesting that I photoshopped the cover? Give me moment – I need to giggle. Yes, 192 pages – that’s what Amazon.co.uk says. Who am I to argue with Amazonians? Sorry, no idea why Timothy Good’s name isn’t on the cover used by Amazon. Go talk to Mercier Press if it makes you feel any better, and stop wasting my time.
    You write:

    “As his review progresses, he remarks that the authors’ “allegations” fail to convince. A cursory glance in a dictionary will show that a conspiracy does NOT necessarily consist of either a whole government or the entire rank and file of a nation’s military or law enforcement establishment. The authors never said it does. Couldn’t the title of the book not refer also to the broader conspiracy of silence among a populace in which, over decades, or centuries, such things just weren’t spoken about? In my opinion, this is why Butler and Nally refer briefly to the traditional acceptance of religion (and religious phenomena ) in Ireland, but UFOs were a no-no.”

    I agree with you in principle. However, as you say, Butler and Nally give a quick reference to religion, but I fail to remember any in-depth (I could be wrong on this – my copy is several thousand miles away right now) suggestion that the conspiracy is a sociological one. The bulk of the book is concerned with appears to be something of an injured tone, as if the authors are frustrated that THEY (i.e. the Conspiracy, the Government) could be hiding something from its taxpayers. When you’ve got members of Fianna Fail lining their pockets with backhanders from dodgy property deals (.e.g Quarryvale) it’s hard to “believe” that they can get the time to look from counting their filthy lucre to notice anything to do with the skies at all, except the government jet, or the row over the Shannon-Heathrow route, or the new Terminal at Dublin Airport.

    “It is also a mystery to me why daev has such a problem with the witness testimony of so many people being accepted by the authors. He complains about it, then in the next paragraph this changes to his understaning of the need to “respect the testimony” of witnesses. It seems to me that the authors are in a no-win situation with daev, and maybe in his ideal world NO witnesses would be believed, thus eliminating the UFO puzzle in one go.” (sic)

    I have no problem with witness testimony – it’s crucially important. However, the authors seem to accept testimony as objective truth, rather subjective reportage. I can’t feeling that you’ve got a problem discerning the difference between the concepts of “scientific truth” (this is provable and replicable), “legal truth” (this is provable beyond all reasonable doubt) and “personal truth” (I saw it, and I believe it happened). Witness testimonies of UFOs – whether they’re given by the ‘man on the street’ or a garda or whatever, still fall into the realm of “personal truth”. I don’t necessarily doubt the experiences of the witnesses – I reckon it’s fair to say that most people that say they have had a weird experience have indeed had a weird experience. It’s the interpretation of that experience that makes it interest. One woman’s Virgin Mary is another man’s alien spacecraft.
    Contrary to your claims, I’ve spoken to many, many UFO witnesses over the years – mostly in the late 90s. I’ve spent nights on hilltops with witches and on islands with UFO spotters. With a few exceptions, I was satisfied that the testimonies I was given were honest and that the witnesses genuinely experienced something. That doesn’t mean that I was satisfied that the events actually occurred as described. No two witnesses – social, crime witnesses, UFO witnesses will tell the same story – everybody always has their own version of events, that’s how the human mind works.
    I don’t believe in lake monsters, and I’m sure they don’t believe in me either. Which doesn’t mean I can prove they don’t exist. As Barry has posted, that whole lake monster debacle in Norway was not quite as you claim.
    In fact, my opinion differed wildly from that of the “certain well-known Scandinavian researcher”, so much so that he set up a website about me called “The Infamous Dave Walsh: Right Hand of the Devil” in which he claimed I was a satanist, pornographer and occultist, “mentally disturbed”, a “whacko” and a “very dangerous man”. Such flattery.

    “When I worked over in Cork, about six or seven years ago, daev craved the (brief) attention of a television camera. I remember his razor sharp ‘expert’ opinion on UFO’s, all thirty or so seconds of it, being given on a documentary.”

    I gather you’re referring to Colum Stapleton’s “Brief Lives: Tell Me Captain Strange” in 2001. Colum and I had mutual friends, he asked me to do the programme. I wasn’t keen, as I wasn’t really doing UFO stuff any more – he talked me into it, I chatted for a while on camera (the session was about a mile from my house). And that was it. I’m sorry for you were expecting stories of Pat Kenny snorting lines of coke off the amber bellies of nubile crack whores, but that’s all I got!
    A Blather Book of UFOs? You givin’ us ideas!
    Plagiarising other blogs you say – about noticing that Navan Fort isn’t in Navan? Oh come on, get real. I have a deep interest in megaliths and other ancient sites. That’s how I know. I have no idea what blog you’re talking about – in any event, I wrote my review over a year ago too!

    “He should leave UFOs to people who actually KNOW somthing about the subject, and carry on snapping pictures of cut animals for environmemtal group. Or maybe scantily-dressed burlesque performers-purely for artistic reasons, ofcourse. Dave Walsh-“talkingshitesince1997″. You bet.” (sic)

    Nail on the head. I’m actually less interested in UFOs – it’s the ufologists that interest me, I find them fascinating. I find the “cut animals for environmemtal group” (sic) comment fascinating too. Is that a reference to vivisection or animal rights? Or cattle mutilations by alien craft? the mind boggles.
    “Scantily-dressed burlesque performers”. Ah, the infamous Dublin burlesque troupe, Pony Girls. Good friends of us here at Blather. more pictures of the Pony Girls here. If you want them to come around and stomp on your living room carpet, I’m sure they’d be delighted.
    So… Mr/Ms Young – who the hell are you, anyway? I really think you need to get out more!
    Dave/daev

  6. “He should leave UFOs to people who actually KNOW somthing about the subject…?
    people know something about the subject?
    in all the years i`ve been studying ufos the only thing i`ve come away with is that people have the potential to confabulate just about anything.
    and yes, ufologists are a fascinating group of people.

  7. Brilliant!
    Deav.. you’re a legend! funny shit indeed!
    even though it was 9 months ago or somthing!!

  8. people try to disprove the evidence for UFOs by saying that witness accounts cant be taken seriously and they are probably lying or mistaken. Well thousands upon thousands of people all over the world have seen things. Does that mean they are all wrong…literally thousands of people are wrong???Or they are all lying??? That just does not stand up. Theres plenty of evidence if you want to go look for it. Read a few more books.

  9. Excellent review. There is, of course, no “conspiracy of silence” on UFO sightings in Ireland (or anywhere else, for that matter). The authors base their conspiracy claim on confusing and contradictory replies from government, military and police departments. Somebody should tell them that these are the only kind of replies the people who work in these agencies are capable of making. Conspiracy theorists are a trusting breed. Not only do they accept witness statements at face value (as long as they are supportive of the theory in question), they also credit official agencies with a level of competence they rarely, if ever, deserve.

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