A Unionist’s response to the McCord/O’Loan report – Part 4

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.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5

  • Greenflag

    FD -congrats on an excellent series . So far I’ve read them with interest but have not commented . Honestly can’t find much ‘error’ in your analysis to date . But in your quote below there’s a self criticism of unionism you make that I think should be seen in a wider historical context which would account for the lack of performance you refer to .

    ‘Unionism is hampered somewhat by less of a grievance or victim culture in its community, even at victim-hood we don’t perform well.’

    Nationalists /republicans /catholics/fenians in Northern Ireland had a 50 year head start in the victim hood stakes – and a good deal longer if you look at Irish history over a longer time span. Practice as they say makes perfect.

    As you say in another post quite correctly IMO that the ‘historical debate’ as such is not the way forward to a practical political solution in NI in the here and now – I would suggest also that a competition within NI to see which side can out victimise the other is likely to be a never ending story not of much use to a general political solution although probably comforting in terms of whats called ‘closure’ to individual victims and their families . But yes the truth should out and unionists should face up to some of the less palateable facts re their ‘police’ . Just like any other people in any other democratic State . It is entirely understandable why such was/is not the case in NI given the local history post 1920.

    Again well done for a thought provoking and honest analysis .

  • Wilde Rover

    “The Nationalist political response has been almost orgasmic.”

    Very amusing and accurate.

    “In such a changed environment, the response should have been to select events most embarrassing to republicanism and nationalism.”

    It is of course right to point out that nationalists have been climbing up onto a high horse over this. However, advocating unionists pursue a policy of selective history would logically lead to nationalists upping the ante.

    Are you, like myself, a proponent of a Whataboutery Expo?

  • fair_deal

    Wilde Rover

    My attitude to the past has always been all or nothing. Selectivity is the worst of all options but if that is the option that has been chosen then Unionism should at least try to be good at it.

  • Nevin

    “The Nationalist political response has been almost orgasmic.”

    Was there not a certain amount of ‘premature ejaculation’ by unionist and nationalist commentators?

    Selectivity should be exposed; it should not be endorsed or encouraged.

  • Greenflag

    Opening one’s mind before opening one’s mouth or posting one’s blogsplat is to be commended but when all minds are open will there be anything left to argue about ?
    Neuroscientists now appear to have physical and biological evidence that the human mind does not possess the ‘free will’ we all once assumed ?

    So where does this ‘selectivity’ come from ? Is it just an adaptive response to a challenging political and constitutional environment in which many feel threatened by change on all sides . Whosoever adapts the best (but not too much ) wins would be the Darwinian outcome.

  • susan

    Fair Deal, I thought very highly of #2 in your series and still do. I have to say though, if you believe Nationalist response to the Ombudsman’s Report is “almost orgasmic” you must have yet to encounter Nationalist response when it is “actually orgasmic.” Shock, anger, depression and resignation are stages of grief, not sexual climax.

    Nonetheless, I plan to dutifully plow on through parts #3 and #5, and I do appreciate you putting as much thought into the actual contents of the Ombudsman’s Report as to the various political responses to it.

  • Rubicon

    I’ve just returned from abroad FD and am only now picking up on Slugger.

    On first reading your post I objected to your interpretation that O’Loan’s report belonged to one community. I still retain that view – but your points about the broader politic in which the report has been used are something I sympathise with.

    FD – you refer to the report as ‘selective’. I wonder what you mean by this term. It was a report requested by the father of a loyalist activist whose son was murdered by comrades.

    Certainly, the report does not provide a complete picture – but “selective” seems to indicate a political motivation. Is this what you are saying? Certainly nationalists have tried to use the report and this has made a political football out of a grave matter. However, nationalists weren’t as quick to the media microphones as unionists were. Unionist criticism of the report suggested a very selective approach to the role of the state and its agents in compliance with law and order. Unionism arguing for partial treatment made the case for nationalists that O’Loan didn’t.

    For me, your narrative focuses on the political – fair enough. When “law and order” is taken as in the ownership of one side of that narrative that side also needs to accept responsibility. O’Loan’s report identified very serious flaws in the performance of the institutions of the state. Unionism seems reluctant (or worse) to attend to a report that pointed to police collusion with loyalists – that damaged loyalists more than it did nationalists.

    If that’s “selective” then you are surely correct. One father of a loyalist murdered by loyalists was dissatisfied with the police investigation of his son’s death. He went to the Ombudsman and a report was produced.

    You seem to be arguing that the Ombudsman’s Office should be used as a political football; e.g., the formation of the PIRA. Fair point – but it suggests nationalists formed the complaint that was reported on by the Ombudsman.

    Do you not believe collusion (even by ‘omission’) a disgraceful state of affairs? Why isn’t this your concern? Why suggest another unionist investigation in the hope it might fair better? What organisations are the IMC pointing to as present threats? Do you think it worthwhile for the Ombudsman’s Office deals with the present before the past?

  • Aaron McDaid

    Fair Deal says that because these were “decisions by government that affected both communities” then somehow it can’t be used to argue about “illegitimacy of British rule” [my italics]. This is incorrect. I draw no distinction between civilian victims (because I’m not sectarian?) and am perfectly entitled to use collusion to campaign against British misrule, even if it was ‘equal opportunity’ collusion.

    Another suggestion by Fair Deal is that unionism should engage in some form about whataboutery by referring to the PIRA and its formation whenever the organs of the British state are questioned. This is all very well if arguing with an IRA member about collusion. But most of the population had nothing to do with any violence and I’m sure nobody really accepts the idea that the state is allowed to cover up killing of civilians just because some of the victims might have shared a religion with some killers somewhere else. By all means campaign for more inquiries, but do so in a more concerted and patient way instead of just dusting it off when it’s politically expedient. If group A is ‘awarded’ an inquiry, then maybe group B should be ‘awarded’ an inquiry, but then the leadership of both groups should shut up and listen to the outcomes instead of pretending that truth is some sort of zero sum game where outcomes of inquiries can be traded against each other.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    FD: “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. ”

    It is narrow, not selective. “Selective” implies cherry-picking on O’Loan’s part, which, to the best of my understanding, is not really the case. While O’Loan could have construed matters more narrowly, all events tie back to the same “Informant #1.” Likewise, it was done in the appropriate fashion for the Ombudsman’s office — complaint received and investigated. For “Unionism” to seek to block such an investigation would likely have caused more damage than good.

    It is not, however, a statistically valid sample, so extrapolation beyond its narrow purpose is ill-advised. It will, however, along with the not-too-distant intelligence report on the UDR, be used as a club, both for what it is and what it implies.

    FD: “Unionism is hampered somewhat by less of a grievance or victim culture in its community, even at victim-hood we don’t perform well.”

    Its hard to play the victim, given the scenario — majority of the police, political majority, etc. Throw in the fact your leadership has included some ripe rabble-rousers and demagogues, along with those instances of police / Loyalist / UDR “cooperation,” and victimhood is a stretch. Throw in the utter lack of supporting “mythos,” if you will, and its a dead letter, really.

    FD: “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. ”

    Looking at the current crop of Unionist “leaders,” I hope you do not intend on holding your breath. Paisley is a demagogue, Little Ian a dunce, the others in DUP think Paisley’s gone shaky… the UUP is staffed with Empey suits. Could be a while before anyone capable of signing off on anything more radical than fire and the wheel come along.