The fifth in a five part artilce on the McCord/O’Loan report. This will oultine an alternative Unionist media response and strategy.An Alternative Unionist Response
Beyond a new approach to examination of the conflict, how should the Unionist parties have responded to the release of the report. The key media points should have been:
This report gives every indication serious, possibly criminal, failures have occurred. Failures that left both of Ulster’s traditional communities with victims and harm. As Unionists we wish our state to be a beacon for democratic standards. Any possibility it failed whether in Ulster or elsewhere in the UK is something we find unacceptable.
We urge the NI Select Committee and Intelligence and Security Committee to investigate these issues further. Those with command and political responsibility must explain why Informant 1’s worth as an agent outweighed the human and criminal cost and establish how widespread these practices were. Those with political responsibility would include the likes of John Major, Peter Mandelson and John Reid.
We share the Ombudsman’s frustration that senior Special Branch officers did not co-operate fully with the investigation. The explanations offered are insufficient to justify this refusal. We are angered by the attempts of some senior officers to hide behind the reputation of the RUC. The silence of some will be filled by siren voices seeking to put the RUC in the worst possible light.
Over 300 RUC officers died, thousands injured and tens of thousands who gave dedicated service to maintain law and order during the Troubles. They sacrificed their lives and stood for the value that any person, whether a police officer or not, who is involved in criminality, should be investigated and prosecuted. This failure to co-operate is an affront to their sacrifice and service.
Optional extra paragraph
However, the report has two flaws. An outline of the information that Informant 1 provided should have been included to give the public the fullest understanding of the situation. Furthermore, the criticism by the Ombudsman based on standards that Special Branch was not subject to is unfair. These mistakes by the Ombudsman leave her open to criticism of bias.
In terms of dealing with the nationalist response, there are three clear opportunities to go on the attack:
1. When nationalist claims beyond what the report said pull them back to the report i.e. challenge them to cite from the report to substantiate it.
2. When a nationalist tries to present this report as collusion against the nationalist and Catholic community. Point out the victims were drawn from both communities and attack them for trying to sectarianise an issue of common concern and impact.
3. Unionists can also emphasise how the report found no evidence of commissioning attacks on the nationalist community. Unionism can argue it undermines key claims about collusion made by nationalists in general and republicans in particular.
This approach would have enabled Unionism to have adopted a strong moral stance. It would have claimed some ownership of the report and thus an input to the media narrative. It offers ways of taking the issues in the report further and not another public inquiry. It maintains a strong defence of the vast majority of the RUC. It provides a basis for media attack on nationalism. There is the option to include criticism of Nuala O’Loan but criticism based on the report not simply because of who she is. As a final bonus, it would have shifted the media focus to a number of key individuals who undermined the Unionist position. Overall, an approach that would have better served Unionism than knee-jerk or reliance on communalism.
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.