The fourth in a five part article on the McCord O’Loan report. This will focus on a brief examination of Nationalism’s response and the deeper problem for Unionism.The political response – Nationalism
The Nationalist political response has been almost orgasmic. Yet their representations of the report and what is contained within it are highly questionable. These include:
The meaning of collusion – The general nationalist representation has been security forces actively directing the activities of Loyalist paramilitaries to kill innocent Catholics – acts of commission. This report itself does use the term collusion but it uses the Coryian definition that includes acts of omission and this is what most of O’Loan’s conclusions are based on. In not one of the 10 murders is there a suggestion that members of Special Branch encouraged or assisted in their targeting.
Who were Informant 1’s victims? – Collusion has been presented as targeted at nationalists. It proves the inherent sectarianism of the state, illegitimacy of British rule etc. In this case the dead and injured of the murder bids were from both communities. The punishment beatings and almost all the other crime including drug dealing drew its victims from or impacted upon Unionist communities. This case (and the media confessions of republican informers) does not substantiate that there was a “Get the nationalists” policy rather morally and legally questionable decisions by government that affected both communities.
The SDLP and the Chief Constable – The most ridiculous outcome to the report was the SDLP’s boast that it had prevented members of the RUC from getting the CC job. Unionists should make them eat this claim every time they open their mouth on equality. Sinn Fein will point to all official denials of it as proof the SDLP is lying about their influence.
The symptom of a bigger problem
This report will have an impact upon history. It is a ’selective’ report as it covers the activity of one informant and one small part of the security forces. Nationalism will use the selective as evidence of the universal to reinforce their particular narrative. There is a danger that the much more substantial achievements of the RUC get over-shadowed by problems. However, Unionism must bear some responsibility for allowing a highly selective approach to the investigation of the conflict.
Unionism’s general position to an examination of the conflict was largely to reject the notion. With the announcement of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and the Police Ombudsman given the power to investigate police actions in the conflict it was clear Unionism had lost that argument. However, Unionism, rather than re-assess what was best in the changed circumstances, generally whinged about their loss of the argument.
In such a changed environment, the response should have been to select events most embarrassing to republicanism and nationalism. The most obvious was the role of the Irish Government, Fianna Fail, the Catholic Church and prominent business people in the establishment of the PIRA. The UUP did launch a campaign for such an inquiry but it never seemed to get beyond its launch. Another is how the Libyan arms shipments got through despite both the British and Irish intelligence agencies knowing in advance. The murderous activities of a North Armagh republicans long suspected as an informant are probably an equivalent story to Informant 1’s. There have been other generalised swipes of incidents worthy of investigation e.g. Bloody Friday. Again, these hardly ever went beyond a press statement or a throw away line in a press interview. Cory did give two inquiries of some limited interest to Unionism – the possible Garda collusion and the Billy Wright murder but both pale into insignificance when compared with the foundation of the PIRA.
Unionism is hampered somewhat by less of a grievance or victim culture in its community, even at victim-hood we don’t perform well. However, I do not believe this explains fully the absence of more campaigns. The Unionist community needs to look at how it has supported those who suffered, beyond the parties ensuring victims groups get money. There must be more in the Unionist community who want to know more or seek justice. The emphasis is on the Unionist community and not parties because these type of campaigns need more than politicians involved.
Peter Hain has identified an examination of the past as one of the outstanding issues in the process. It is not going away. Therefore, Unionism has to determine a new position on dealing with it that at the very least is fair to all victims at best one that will assist the Unionist narrative.
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.