A Unionist’s response to the McCord/O’Loan report – Part 5

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.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

  • Harris

    “In terms of dealing with the nationalist response, there are three clear opportunities to go on the attack”

    There in lies the unionist/loyalist problem. I don’t think anyone believes that all of the old RUC were bad apples, Fair Deal, but to try and evade complete accountability of their collusion in any way, including your “clear opportunities to go on the attack”, still show the level of denial the unionist/loyalist communities are in.

  • BP1078

    Harris
    FD said in his alternative strategy:

    This report gives every indication serious, possibly criminal, failures have occurred.

    That’s not denying that collusion took place, surely?

  • Sean

    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

    By allowing a single attack on a republican with out atleast attempting to access the normal redress of Law and order then by ommision you commision further attacks

  • Harris

    BP

    “This report gives every indication serious, possibly criminal, failures have occurred.

    That’s not denying that collusion took place, surely?”

    “Possibly” criminal? This comment alone would justify being in denial. Fair Deal acknowledges that “failures” occured within the RUC, but qualifying those failures with an attack on the nationalist/republican response surely minimizes that vague acknowledgement.

  • Dec

    Unionism can argue it undermines key claims about collusion made by nationalists in general and republicans in particular

    Without much conviction though. We have heard evidence from Ken Barratt on Panorama that SB officers urged the UDA to kill Pat Finuncane (‘He’s got to go’). We know from the Nelson affair that innocent nationalists were deliberately targeted by Loyalists acting on British orders either through ‘poor intelligence’ or to protect informers. Nuala O’Loan has not published the definitive book on collusion but merely highlighted the activities of one UDA unit and acted with impunity due to the influence of special Branch.

    When a nationalist tries to present this report as collusion against the nationalist and Catholic community

    Sorry has this actually happened? All nationalists realise this report would never have happened without Raymond McCord’s persistence. By suggesting that Nationalists are only interested in collusion when Nationalists are the victims is insulting and betrays your own sectarian hierarchy of victims. For 30 years Unionism has dismissed collusion and continue to do so.
    It can be argued with justification that Unionists only acknowledge collusion when protestants are the victim and are only interested in those victims (as evidenced by your own portentious and self-important threads on this topic).

  • Dec

    Should read ‘one UVF unit’

  • The point about Ken Barrett may particularly relevant, if as the Down Democrat suggests, he shared a handler with Mark Haddock.

  • joeCanuck

    Fair Deal’

    Some thanks you get for trying to reach across the divide.
    It was inevitable, I suppose, that the begrudgers would soon be out with their whataboutery, MOPEry and shoot the messenger posts.
    With regard to your overall post, I think it was an excellent job.
    I’ve been putting some thoughts together in my head and I’ll try to post them later.

    Regards,
    Joe

  • joeCanuck

    Oops.
    Forgot to mention Ad Hominem attack.

  • fair_deal

    Harris

    Ever hear of “prejudicing the opportunity for a trial”?

    JoeCanuck

    It is pretty much what I expected from some. I knew I’d get an easy ride when I criticised Unionism but once my conclusion tried to offer a Unionist alternative rather than buy into the nationalist narrative that ‘normal’ service would recommence. The game always goes on.

    Overall, it was written more for concern about Unionism rather than outreach to Nationalism. The most interesting thing for me so far is that no Unionist has taken serious issue with what I said. Although perhaps I have spoken too soon, Friday and Saturday do get lower readerships.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes Fair Deal.

    But the fact that you are prepared to criticise your “own” side has the ancillary effect of giving hope that there is some possibility of all of us having a useful discourse rather than just mouthing epithets at each other.

  • fair_deal

    Dec

    “Sorry has this actually happened?”

    Sinn Féin’s Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said the report showed that state terrorism was used against the nationalist community.

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0122/mccordr.html

  • Bemused

    “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.”

    Is it just me that finds this utterly depressing in tone. When Nationalists respond to the report they require to be ‘attacked’. Why exactly? When Socialists respond to the report do they require to be ‘attacked’ as well? What about Monarchists, Idealists, Federalists etc. Really FD – if even you continue to merely see yourself as some sort of knee-jerk opposite to Nationalists/Irish/Republicans then there’s no hope for any of us. Unionism is unionism is unionism. It either has a sensible, rational, subscribable credo or it doesn’t. It’s either deserving of admiration and support or it isn’t. It’s either valid and capable of logical justification or it isn’t. It doesn’t have to be defined by ‘attacking’ something just because it’s Nationalist or Irish or Republican.

  • Well done, Fair Deal.

  • lib2016

    Well done, Bemused.

    I’ve been reading this series with increasing gloom wondering how to convey my disappointment at the lack of understanding in them.

    Are we to have a ‘Unionist truths’ and ‘Nationalist truths’ now?

    Fair_deal has been honest in saying that his concern is in the report’s effect on unionism rather than any outreach to nationalism . It’s an interesting choice of priorities.

  • Harris

    Fair Deal

    “Ever hear of “prejudicing the opportunity for a trial”?”

    Ohhh, so that’s your reasoning. Why didn’t you say so from the beginning?

  • BP1078

    The most interesting thing for me so far is that no Unionist has taken serious issue with what I said. Although perhaps I have spoken too soon, Friday and Saturday do get lower readerships.

    Bearing in mind that the commentariat on Slugger is overwhelmingly nationalist, I wouldn’t read too much into the lack of Unionist criticism (unfortunately). Interesting to see what the ATW crew will/would make of it though. As a non-aligned Unionist, I reckon your analysis has been pretty much spot on.

    In terms of dealing with the nationalist response, there are three clear opportunities to go on the attack:

    Perhaps you could have put that a bit better, comes across as slightly aggressive although I agree with your overall conclusion.

    Dec
    When a nationalist tries to present this report as collusion against the nationalist and Catholic community

    Sorry has this actually happened?

    Yes, it has.

    The day after the report was released, in the SF blog, Balrog, Chris Gaskin said

    That truth is that the British government through their state agencies colluded and actively participated in the murder of unarmed Catholic civilians.
    my emphasis

    http://gaskinbalrog.blogspot.com/2007/01/brit-murder-machine-exposed-to-world.html

    I dare say if I delved a bit deeper into the mainstream media response, I would find other examples.

  • Nevin

    fd,

    These policing decisions are more complex than you’ve indicated so the NIA committee would not be able to call on all of those with a possible case to answer.

    The Dick Spring briefing shows that the Irish government has been involved in day-to-day as well as policy decisions on policing. The UK government has overall responsibility but the BIIC Joint Secretariat is involved in some of these decisions, especially matters that have been raised by nationalist politicians – as was its predecessor, the AIIC JS.

    The NIA committee would not be able to examine those decisions that were taken under JS auspices as these exchanges are inter-governmental and not subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

  • Apparently Haddock and Barrett were big Stone Roses fans. I hear they particularly liked the lead singer – Ian Brown.

  • dc

    Superb work fair_deal – one of the best pieces I’ve read on slugger.

    Your suggested course of action is infinitely more proper than the bare-knuckle shoot-the-messenger attacks on O’Loan adopted by many Unionists.

    Anyone with pride in the meaning of British Citizenship should be deeply concerned about the findings of the Ombudsman’s report, and it’s implications for the state of our democracy here in the UK.

  • pauljames

    Well done FD,you articulate a response that was sadly lacking from unionist politicians while the response from the slugger/begrudgers is also sadly predictable.

  • heck

    While I don’t agree with you on this you read like the sort of unionist that I would like to have a few beers with and argue politics with. When I lived in Nor Iron politics was always avoided in “mixed company” and looking back I think that was a bad thing.

    My main objection to your articles is that although you have accepted that collusion occurred you still don’t seem to (or want to) accept what this is really about. It is about the very nature of the society we want Northern Ireland to become.

    For one thing you seem to buy into the “few bad apples” school of thought. The RUC were a rotten barrel. In your article 3 you say, “Also many RUC officers are outraged that their years of good service are being potentially besmirched by some in Special Branch apparently acting under orders from on high.” If these good RUC officers knew what was going on (and if you read Johnson Brown they obviously did!!) why did they not resign –or at least go to the media.

    You comment 9 in article 3 “hope you don’t mind but I do not want this thread to become another one about parading. I am trying to keep its focus upon O’Loan”, suggests that you are deliberately concentrating on one incident. This is one of a series of exposures of RUC collusion (and British Army collusion) such as Stephens and Cory and they must be taken together. Even my own experience suggests that the RUC tolerated loyalist paramilitaries. I can remember watching RUC officers joking with hooded loyalists at a barricade on the cavehill road (at the bottom of the westland road) during the 1974 UWC strike. (Don’t say that was a long time ago-you want to go back to 1969 to investigate Irish government involvement in the formation of the provisionals!! Article 4).

    Having a friend murdered by the shankill butchers I know that the RUC did not try to stop them and it took the IRA to stop lennie Murphy.

    In article 4 you continue in this vane that this was one bad incident in the glorious history of the angelic RUC. With all due respect fair deal, that is a load of bullshit. You claim that this shows that collusion was on of omission rather the commission is delusional. “. In not one of the 10 murders is there a suggestion that members of Special Branch encouraged or assisted in their targeting. Fair deal you are heading into collusion denial terrority“ Yea that is true if you “keep its focus upon O’Loan”. Looking at it as one small part of a big picture then that comment is nonsense. Put it together with what we know about the murder of pat finuciane, and the activities of Brian nelson and your claim is nothing more than an attempt to whitewash the RUC.

    You claim in article 4 that “The Nationalist political response has been almost orgasmic” is more bull shit. My initial response was oloan only proved the obvious. I think that was the response of most nationalists. I only got annoyed when I saw the idiotic comments from some unionist bloggers on this site (Not you!)

    I agree with Harris’ exasperated comment to your article 5 comment “This report gives every indication serious, possibly criminal, failures have occurred” Possible fair deal- Possible—and it is possible that the pope is catholic and that the world is round.

    “Unionists can also emphasize how the report found no evidence of commissioning attacks on the nationalist community” Come on fair deal that us only true if you look at this report in a vacuum. It is one paragraph is a bigger story.

    Joe canuck read want I read into you papers “I think you have done a great service here in drawing a clear distinction between rogue elements inside SB and the remainder of the police service” With respect to Joe I think he has his head up his ass. There is not a problem with “rogue elements” there is a problem with the justice system in nor Iron.

    Good start fair deal. You are starting to see the light but you have a long way to go.

  • joeCanuck

    Thank you for your kind remark Heck.
    You’re one hell of a guy and I’m glad to see that you know it all.

  • To quote the bar manager in Newcastle upon Tyne when the latest stag party from Glasgow landed in – I’ve had my Phil of Scott.

  • headmelter

    I found it an interesting read although I didn’t agree with your choice of language in parts.

    I am encouraged by the fact you have tried to look at the report with a somewhat objective view and your conclusions have been much more constructive than the predictable utterances from the usual unionist suspects.

    Your journey to Damascus has begun FD.

  • Mark_Baxter

    A very well thought out series of reports that set common sense against what out initial responses as unionists should be. If there was a progressive unionist party out there with a brain in their head they would and should hire you asap. You’ve talked a lot of sense, hopefully this will continue in the future. 😛

    All the best.

  • Fuiseog

    Fair deal

    Thanks for that interesting and well thought out response. Im sure writing it has been a challenge both in terms of time and intellectual effort.

    My feeling is that, to use the analogy of the elephant in the room, in writing about the published public version of this report what you have theorised, analysed and pronounced upon is merely the tail of this enormous creature.

    What it actually turns out to be, while we all have our own ideas and thoughts is beyond us just now, we will never know if those in the British establishment are never forfeit to open scrutiny on these issues. I support your call for any committee to investigate but feel that given Mrs O’loan couldn’t get the whole shebang published here and now that that exact same control will be enforced no matter what body takes the bit to follow the ‘tail.’

    And with following the tail in mind Im wondering that in the interests of common concern and impact you might one day be persuaded to bring your considerable skills to bear and do an equally in-depth analysis on the bigger picture of running agents by the British and Irish governments. Who What Where and when …

    Im thinking there might even be a grant and a PhD thesis somewhere in that … thats if ‘they’ dont get to you first like ‘they’ did with Mrs O’Loan 😉 I may smile but inside I’m crying …

    Is mise
    Fuiseog

  • fair_deal

    Bemused

    There is rarely a truce in the political fight.A truce is possible but experience would say unlikely.

    However, the media counter-strategy on nationalism is if they start to play games with the report. If they keep within the bounds of the report and conclusions there is no basis to attack them. Reaction to this report would indicate nationalism showed litte interest in finding common ground. Although how much of this was premeditated and their own knee-jerkery to Unionist knee-jerkery we will never know.

    lib2016

    “Are we to have a ‘Unionist truths’ and ‘Nationalist truths’ now? ”

    Now?

    “Fair_deal has been honest in saying that his concern is in the report’s effect on unionism rather than any outreach to nationalism. It’s an interesting choice of priorities.”

    If you quote someone best to use what the actually said. I did not mention “the report’s effect on Unionism”

    heck

    ” would like to have a few beers with and argue politics with.”

    A kind invitation but trust me I am not a nice drunk.

    “For one thing you seem to buy into the “few bad apples” school of thought.”

    My analysis would be more complex than that.

    I have no particular love for the RUC from my upbringing and experiences. I am trying to square the circle of trying to get a community that does ‘love’ it to deal with its failures rather than deny it. The resulting media message may not please nationalists but it is surely better than encouraging further denial.

    Mark

    “If there was a progressive unionist party out there with a brain in their head they would and should hire you asap”

    LMAO, I know a few who would be choking on their frosties at that suggestion.

    Fusieoig

    Thank you for your thoughtful reflections.

  • Nevin

    fd,

    Your ad hominem attack on a senior police officer, Freddie Hall, without an exploration of the context of events, did smack of knee-jerkery.

    It doesn’t surprise me that some police officers (and other public servants) either operated outside the law by choice or by direction from senior officers or political agents.

    Perhaps those politicians who helped create the mess in which our public servants had to operate might volunteer to shoulder part of the blame for the trauma that ensued rather than finding convenient scapegoats.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Nevin: “It doesn’t surprise me that some police officers (and other public servants) either operated outside the law by choice or by direction from senior officers or political agents.

    Perhaps those politicians who helped create the mess in which our public servants had to operate might volunteer to shoulder part of the blame for the trauma that ensued rather than finding convenient scapegoats. ”

    ROFLMAO… Nevin, you owe me a monitor over that — coughing up frosties indeed. Either you’re a brilliant satirist or have no understanding of the depths of arrogance and self-centeredness that goes into your typical politician. Lessers are for falling on grenades — they are meat shields.

  • Nevin

    Dread, back in the days of yore, I ran a series on BBC Talkback messageboard of fictional accounts about the doings of the Port Moon Trust, the developer Patsy McCash of Cashlaun Castle and two politicians, Ben Gore and Croyer Hill. The BBC eventually pulled them on the grounds that they were potentially libellous. Perhaps they were a little too close to the truth 😉