A Unionist’s response to the McCord/O’Loan Report – Part 1

The first in a five part article about the McCord/O’Loan report. This will briefly outline Unionist attitudes on policing and an assessment of the McCord/O’Loan report itself.Unionist attitudes and the police

In much of the Unionist community the RUC is beyond reproach, especially among rural and middle class Unionism. This is an understandable sentiment towards an organisation that lost over 300 dead and thousands more injured (many permanently) over decades of service. Dedicated service given during arguably the most persistent and best organised civil conflict in a western democracy.

It is not an attitude I ascribe to. First, a perfect human organisation doesn’t exist. Second, I have had a number of negative experiences of the RUC (and PSNI) in my personal and professional life. Despite these negative aspects my broad experience has been a relatively good organisation. However, I am completely open to the suggestion that abuses occur, failures happen and that political decisions do over-ride law, order and justice.

The O’Loan report

On the day of its release I tried to avoid the news coverage. I wanted to read the full report rather than rely on the spin. I read it on the night of its release before I reached any conclusions. Overall I considered it to be a generally thorough report.

It laid out a reasonable argument that over a 12 year period a police informant was implicated in at least ten murders, a series of assaults and other criminal activity including drug dealing. His handlers were aware of these activities either by direct confession of the informant or from a range of other security sources. They appear to have taken the decision his worth as an agent outweighed his activities. However, they did not direct his paramilitary and criminal activities. The victims of his crimes were drawn from both the nationalist and unionist communities. An examination of Special Branch’s systems or lack of them give little reason to believe this was an isolated approach. Throughout this period senior policing and political figures would or should have been aware of what was going on. It has been represented to mean much more but this is essentially what the report says.

However three criticisms can be made of the report:
Informant 1’s worth – The intelligence that Informant 1 provided should have been included in the report. The Ombudsman provides her own negative assessment of its worth but next to no detail. The one aspect covered, the neutralisation of the UVF’s explosive stock, does not seem to be regarded as particularly important by the Ombudsman. Decisions on agents are about the lesser of two evils. The systems she argues for are simply a common approach to choosing the lesser evil. Yet there is no opportunity to make the assessment in this case. The exclusion of this information leaves her open to the charge that it was a deliberate ploy to reduce challenge to her conclusions. Without it no one could say “Yes Informant 1 is implicated in 10 murders but his information prevented X times as many deaths, the recovery of XX firearms etc”.
A Hindsight Standards Test – A chunk of the criticism in the report is applying standards that Special Branch was not subject to at the time. Criticism based on a standard that ‘should’ have been rather than was is unfair.
Need to know – The Ombudsman persistently advocates a broad pool of people who should have received information. Her proposed degree of specificity and liberality with information is questionable.

Regardless of these criticisms, the report still raises important issues and questions that should not be summarily dismissed by anyone.

NOTE: I would ask commentors to stick to the topic, resist ad hominen attacks and not to feed the trolls.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are solely the personal views of the author.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

  • susan

    “Regardless of these criticisms, the report still raises important issues and questions that should not be summarily dismissed by anyone.”– Fair Deal

    Fair Deal, apologies if this sounds flippant, I do not mean it to. The “important issues and questions” — I cannot tell from your synopses of upcoming parts #2, #3, and #4, if you are going to address these important issues and questions yourself, or if you will be concentrating only on community responses to the release of the report thus far?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    1) Question re: Informant 1’s worth — whose decision was it to exclude the information? What it even an option on that table to include it from the get go?

    2)A Hindsight Standards Test — It does not take the Dali Lama to grasp that perhaps there is something wrong with letting a self-confessed murder walk about.

    3) “The Ombudsman persistently advocates a broad pool of people who should have received information. Her proposed degree of specificity and liberality with information is questionable.”

    Contrariwise — by allowing the SB to work without any sort of credible oversight, they have created a scenario where the SB was the defacto partner to Loyalist killers as an acessory to murder after the fact. This, in turn, supports the broader stereotype of the RUC/UVF.

    4) “Regardless of these criticisms, the report still raises important issues and questions that should not be summarily dismissed by anyone. ”

    But there will be no shortage of Unionists will to do precisely that.

  • Mount Vernon Resident

    As a loyalist from Mount Vernon, I will say this, my community, as a whole, was deeply disgusted at the extent of this report although it was really just a confirmation of what we were all led to believe over the past year or so, some say longer but there were still the doubters and believers that Haddock couldn’t be an informer! How sick they must feel now eh?
    To say that we feel cheated by Haddock is one thing, but what the police did or didn’t do, has literally rubbed salt into an already open & extremely infected wound!
    I would urge nationalists to believe that the unionist/loyalist community do not always ‘support’ the police just because they are mainly protestant. In fact, I would say, quite the opposite…BECAUSE they are mainly protestant, it hurts more that they treat us in the way in which they do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sayin we deserve special treatment because of our religion but to hear policemen calling us ‘Orange B*st*ds’ is quite upsetting!!
    Bring on more investigations I say, but this time NAME THE BLOODY TOUTS!!

  • PHILLIS SCOTT…

    Won’t be long til Informant One – Mark Haddock will be set free if there are no further charges regarding Miss McKenna or Young McCord’s murders.
    Going by the ombudsman report on collusion with the UVF, it looks like one senior member, namely Cowhead, is getting one hell of a lucky escape – literally escape. It was Eurodisney last week, where will he end up next???
    If I was him, I’d have stayed in France.

    Cash in your chips Gaz & go….

  • fair_deal

    Susan

    The issues are listed here – murder, attacks and serious crime. Officialdom ignored these in return for information on paramilitary activities with a huge question mark over who got the better end of this ‘bargain’. Plus little to believe this was a unique scenario.

    DC

    1. It is her report. The report includes wide use of intelligence about Informant 1 and a little of what he did provide. So it most certainly seems like an option to have included it.
    2. The Dalai Llama will also know police and intelligence agents commit crimes. As I said “Decisions on agents are about the lesser of two evils.”
    3. The report finds that there is no particular reason to believe the practices around Informant 1 were unique to him or loyalist groups. So if it is to be reduced to initials it is a case of RUC/PIRA/UVF/INLA/UFF et al.
    4. I am not responsible for what other Unionists do or do not do.

  • Sean

    Fair Deal “Yes Informant 1 is implicated in 10 murders but his information prevented X times as many deaths, the recovery of XX firearms etc”.

    Who can say those same people wouldnt have been saved just by lifting this murderer and putting him in the prison he belonged in. To me this is the ultimate whataboutery

  • susan

    “The issues are listed here – murder, attacks and serious crime.”–Fair Deal

    Respectfully, I would submit that the broader issue is whether and when the rule of law applies to the police and/or the security forces, and when it can and cannot be waived for the greater good.

  • fair_deal

    Susan

    No problem with that.

  • Benn

    Is there some sense that SB tried to limit Haddock’s crimes, or is it a situation of giving him free reign because he’s paying for it with information? Even in pursuit of a greater good, it stands to reason that the SB should have set conditions for Haddock not being lifted. Defense of their failure to do so rings a bit hollow, despite all the context. Sure, it’s a slipperly slope, but the police have a special obligation. When they fail to uphold it, they are no less culpable than those who do the deed. Ben(n)

  • Dread Cthulhu

    FD: “It is her report. The report includes wide use of intelligence about Informant 1 and a little of what he did provide. So it most certainly seems like an option to have included it. ”

    Not so — just because she had access to the information does not mean that the government would permit her to publish said information, leastwise not to the various and sundry of the general population.

    FD: “The Dalai Llama will also know police and intelligence agents commit crimes. As I said “Decisions on agents are about the lesser of two evils.” ”

    Mayhap, but I doubt he would condone them.

    Likewise, I would be curious as to how much “greater good” you would consider your loved-one’s to be worth. Raionalizing this Faustian bargain is easy when it’s not your family and friends being sacrificed by the state for the benefit of UVF murderer.

    FD: “The report finds that there is no particular reason to believe the practices around Informant 1 were unique to him or loyalist groups. So if it is to be reduced to initials it is a case of RUC/PIRA/UVF/INLA/UFF et al.”

    I have doubts, in so far as there would have been two different dynamics, in all probability — one applied to the Republican groups, and that for the Loyalist groups, although I concede the differences could simply be a matter of tone and temperment. There is no way of honestly knowing without further research — research I suspect the government and the police would seek to block were OLoan even willing to attempt it.

    As for the report, it is a study of a single SB unit’s relationship with a single informant, so that particular finding has little weight, especially given the lack of oversight. Given that lack, I would think that the notion that the SB was uniform in its treatment of informants is wishful thinking.

    FD: ” I am not responsible for what other Unionists do or do not do.”

    Are you disputing the assetion that there are Unionists who will discard this report as they have and will, in all liklihood, continue to discard anything that does not conform to their communal mythology? I am making a simple statement, not an accusation.

    The short version here is the police got in bed with a UVF hood, to the extent of becoming accessories after the fact to murder and a host of lesser charges. Some whataboutery about “maybe it was for the greater good” is being produced is certain quarters — a poor effort of putting lipstick on the pig of Loyalist / RUC collusion.

  • joeCanuck

    A fair exposition Fair Deal and I personally always appreciate your thoughts even though I might not agree..
    One thing puzzles me a little, however. Are the three criticisms yours, or are they what you are hearing from other unionists? It’s not at all clear.

  • fair_deal

    DC

    “would permit her to publish said information”

    I provided two examples of her being permitted to print intelligence information.

    “Faustian bargain”

    I make mention of a friend who was murdered. A close relative suffers from PTSD from experiences in the Troubles. Other friends live daily with the pain of their loss. So I have experience personal loss and still see the impact of the troubles to this day. However, this does not blind me to the fact the world is somewhere that morally repugnant questions arise and have to be answered.

    “Are you disputing the assetion that there are Unionists who will discard this report…”

    No

  • Dread Cthulhu

    FD: “I provided two examples of her being permitted to print intelligence information. ”

    Does not mean she would be allowed to publish them all, FD. There are still revelations from WW2 in the British files under seal — what could possibly be the harm in those files?

    FD: “I make mention of a friend who was murdered. A close relative suffers from PTSD from experiences in the Troubles. Other friends live daily with the pain of their loss. So I have experience personal loss and still see the impact of the troubles to this day. However, this does not blind me to the fact the world is somewhere that morally repugnant questions arise and have to be answered.”

    That is entirely and inherently different from discovering your loved-one was deemed an “acceptable loss” by the police running one of these thugs, FD.

    FD: “No ”

    It’s not always about you, FD.

  • fair_deal

    DC

    “It’s not always about you, FD.”

    1. It was a comment on part of an article I wrote.
    2. In the second comment you begin it with the initials of my nickname “FD”, you use a direct quote from one of my comments and ask me a direct question.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    FD: “In the second comment you begin it with the initials of my nickname “FD”, you use a direct quote from one of my comments and ask me a direct question. ”

    Yes, and I said “But there will be no shortage of Unionists will to do precisely that. ”

    This is not an assault upon your integrity. This is a simple observation of reality — there are already no shortage of Unionists seeking to sweep the report under the rug.

  • civil rights

    Despite these negative aspects my broad experience has been a relatively good organisation.

    Your experience, with all due respect is not so broad, unless you lived in nationalist areas. Living there you might have formed a different opinion.

    Dedicated service given during arguably the most persistent and best organised civil conflict in a western democracy.

    The RUC were part of the most persistent and best organised civil conflict in a western democracy. Possibly they contributed to the cause of this persistent conflict by the very nature of their organization and its tactics. Maybe not in your “broad experience,” in unionist areas but certainly since partition in nationalist ones.

    RUC/PIRA/UVF/INLA/UFF et al.
    I see why you might want to reduce it to initals. I suppose that is why some Unionists use IRA/Sinn Fein to describe the Republican political movement. If we wanted too (but probably should not) we might continue this with RUC, B-specials (wasn’t there C and D specials too), of course the UVF, LVF UDA, RIR UDR etc., all, in my view are intermingled, thus you find UVF who are also police officers, RUC who arrive at Sinn Fien’s offices with shotguns, etc. etc.

    Still I appreciate your thoughtful response, and now at least we are talking. I abhor the RUC, and many of course abhor the IRA.

    As a nationalist I cannot and will not defend the IRA in every action, or possibly any action that had resulted in an innocent death, or maybe any death for a political cause. The same should be said for the RUC, and indeed the PSNI.

    There were murder gangs murdering innocent Catholics for no other reason than putting down the IRA’s campaign, (Gusty Spence and all those who came after )this is not the lesser of two evils, this is evil, so it shoud have been stopped. Catholics should not have been killed by loyalists just to stop the IRA, in fact some Protestants were killed because they were mistaken as being Catholics. UVF killing UVF might be considered the lesser of two evils, just as maybe killing known IRA members upon sighting them unarmed or not, might be considered the lesser of two evils, killing the people who might kill you could, by some be considered lesser, still the Shankill butchers, how more evil can you be. And I am on topic Fair deal because O’Loan said in her report (very roughly paraphrased) that if such events occurred in her small purview, than it did elsewhere too.

    The dogs in the streets know this in West Belfast (some of them were shot by the RUC or Brits for knowing this [and literally I mean the dogs, not counting the wee girl who was on her way to get bread and a potshot from a land rover killed her with a rubber (before plastic bullet]. This is what we need to think of for a nes policing service.

    Having said all that we all must admit our evil deeds, or failing that stop them from happening again.

    Staments like: Despite these negative aspects my broad experience has been a relatively good organisation, are not helpful.

    Brendan Beehan said something similair I think (again roughly paraphrased), I would never join any army because they are all rotten but one, the Irish Republican Army.

    Now we need to move forward and either we include ex-prisoners in the police force or exclude the partisan RUC members who were in essence breaking the law they swore to uphold. I like you moniker fair deal and possibly mine (civil rights) is similair if not the same. Unionists need to own up to their part of the problem, their police force and how it chose to uphold un-just laws, in the past, or broke the law in order to achieve its politcal goals in the present, hopefully not the future. Fair deal for one fair deal for all. Looking forward to your next post.

    Civil rights.