Mistruths, untruths, disingenuousness and Claudy – when is it ok to lie in Politics?

Last week Owen Patterson the  NI Sec State said:

“Our position is completely clear, and consistent with previous governments, you cannot have meaningful talks, serious discussions, real negotiations whatever you want to call them with people who are not absolutely committed to peaceful means of pursuing their goals,”.

Using a good Northern Ireland phrase ‘the dogs in the streets’ know that previous British governments had been talking  with terrorists all the way back to the early 70’s. So is Patterson lying, just using ‘ ‘politician speak’ or being disingenuous with the truth?

This week we have the NI Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson telling us that post Claudy, ‘the Government’, the Police and the Roman Catholic church colluded to possibly pervert the course of justice and then mislead the victims families and the people of Northern Ireland. As the Ombudsman stated ‘collusion may or may not involve criminality.’

He goes on to state  “The morality or ‘rightness’ of the decision taken by the Government and the Catholic Church in agreeing to the RUC request is another matter entirely and requires further public debate’

So my question is when is it ok to lie in politics?

Plato on lying; ‘If anyone is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings with either their enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good. Nobody else should meddle with this privilege’

Clearly the big lad didn’t have a problem with it although he referred to it as ‘a noble lie’

Anyway I seem to have more of a problem with it than Plato did – especially when our Politicians do it, on our behalf, patting us on the head and assuring us that it is for our greater good.

Whilst I have no time for Marty ‘Machine Gun’ McGuinness on a whole host of levels, he has slowly achieved some grudgingly given  respect with me [on one level] in that I consider that he tells the truth more than most politicians. As much as people may not like to admit it so does Lord Bannside [Ian Paisley].

I’d be interested in people’s suggestions for politicians that generally tell the truth and of course whether or not you too struggle with the concept of ‘the noble lie’ in politics…

My thanks to CMcC for assistance with the above…

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  • Realistic Idealist

    you have tagged 5 phrases for that article, the only 3 letter organisation mentioned in the article is RUC, yet out of only 5 tags and even though there is no mention of them in the article, you felt the need to tag “ira”

    obsessed much?

  • fin

    is respect not a two way street, not only between politicans and the public but between different communities. Martin McGuinness is the most senior elected nationalist politican in NI yet you refer to him as Marty ‘Machine Gun’ McGuinness, in the next sentence Ian Paisley is Lord Bannside. Might be an idea to pick up a history book and do a bit of reading on Paisley you might be able to come up with a more balanced nickname for him.

    You might even learn that a lot of nationalists were glad that there were machine guns in their community in those days when Lord Bannside of whipping up hatred

  • drumlins rock

    “you cannot have meaningful talks, serious discussions, real negotiations”
    but does tha mean you can have…
    informal talks, preliminary discussions, theoretical negotiations?

  • wild turkey

    “Lying is a terrible vice, it testifies that one despises God, but fears men.”

    “Lying is an accursed vice. It is only our words which bind us together and make us human. If we realized the horror and weight of lying, we would see that it is more worthy of the stake than other crimes . . . . Once let the tongue acquire the habit of lying and it is astonishing how impossible it is to make it give it up”

    Michel Eyquem De Montaigne
    1533-1592, French Philosopher, Essayist


  • vanhelsing


    Apologies if ‘Machine Gun’ is misinterpreted it is a reference to Marty truthfully admitting that he as carrying a machine gun during Bloody Sunday [which contextualises the post]..

    I’m not looking for a thread discussing Marty and Ian but rather the truth and politics…

  • Alan Maskey

    Plato suported Sparta, the archetype fascist state. Interesting you should quote him.
    And this Hutchinson man who, like McGuinness, is paid by the Crown. Hutchinson, some Ombusdsman, has used a very loaded term: collusion.
    This, we all know, features prominently with PSF who say: the security forces coluded with Loyalist murder gangs in killing Catholics.
    To collude in killing is a serious thing.
    Is Hutchinson saying the organised Catholic Church colluded in the Claudy bombing? Did the bishop, for example, prime the bomb? Did the Cardinal pick out Claudy?
    Or is he just doing a Paisely, loosely throwing around serious charges for his own anti Catholic reasons?

  • All politicians lie, if not all the time and on every subject, then almost all the time and on almost every subject.

    The good news appears to be that both MMcG and IP snr (since promoted) are credited with, usually, telling the truth, that is quite an accolade for both men and the north, since I cannot think of another politician on these islands or anywhere in the western world who would merit such a claim.

    The Brits are speaking to the dissidents, naturally they deny it, but sure where’s the harm, lots of people talk to themselves.

  • vanhelsing

    Maskey you amaze me with your obtuseness.

    You somehow manage to turn a quotation from Plato into an insinuation about my support for a fascist state [did you have one in mind?] . It must be a very grey life you lead [I nearly feel actual sorrow for you].

    Anyway with reference to the argument above I made clear I didn’t support the Plato quote but it was used to give some context to the post about lying in politics. Does that mean I don’t support fascist states, maybe Amenesty International might take me now?

    Regarding the rest of your babble…:)

  • Rory Carr

    No, Alan Maskey, if you simply read the extract from the Ombudsman’s report above you will see clearly that he does not, as you impute, say that, “the organised Catholic Church colluded in the Claudy bombing”.

    However, nor does he say, as Van Helsing erroneously (and quite mischievosly) states above, that, “the Government’, the Police and the Roman Catholic church colluded to possibly pervert the course of justice and then mislead the victims families and the people of Northern Ireland.” Those are Van Helsing’s words, not the Police Ombudsman’s.

    The Ombudsman does however acknowledge, in his conclusions, ” that there has been much public commentary about the bombings, alleging police collusion with the State and the Catholic Church.” (My emphasis).

    The Ombudsman, having declared his cognisance of this “public commentary” however concludes only that, ” In the absence of explanation the actions of the senior RUC officers, in seeking and accepting the Government’s assistance in dealing with the problem of Father Chesney’s alleged wrong doing , was by definition a collusive act.”.

    He therefore finds evidence of collusion within the RUC but only, it appears, “in seeking and accepting the Government’s assistance in dealing with the problem of Father Chesney’s alleged wrongdoing.” Which seems to me odd, to say the laest, particularly when he further concludes, “However, collusion may or may not involve criminality.” I cannot imagine a charge of criminal collusion being drawn up on the basis of the police “seeking and accepting the Government’s assistance ” given that this is what the DPP do every day in deciding whether or not to proceed with a case “in the public interest”.

    As to the Catholic Church, the Ombudsman concludes, as Van Helsing has, correctly this time, quoted, “The morality or ‘rightness’ of the decision taken by the Government and the Catholic Church in agreeing to the RUC request is another matter entirely and requires further public debate” (My emphasis again).

    In conclusion, Alan, it is Van Helsing, who distorted the report’s conclusions above, towards whom you should direct your ire and not the Ombudsman who leaves the role of the Catholic Church in this sorry tale open for debate. And debate there will be whether directed or no and the public rightly demand to know more.

    To this end all parties involved who are yet alive and have knowledge or have access to records have a great duty to speak frankly of what they know and that includes the NIO, the Home Office, the Cabinet Office, the RUC (through its successor, the PSNI), the Catholic Church and last, but not least, the IRA. I would pray that, in this instance, political expediency does not trump the necessary grace and courage required to do the right thing.

  • vanhelsing


    Just so we’re clear.

    I didn’t say the RC church colluded in the bombing – they didn’t!!
    I did say they colluded in the coverup of the truth as did the British government and the Police.

    and I used the word ‘possibly’…
    ‘the Government’, the Police and the Roman Catholic church colluded to possibly pervert the course of justice and then mislead the victims families and the people of Northern Ireland.

    I would be surprised if you didn’t believe there was a coverup over Claudy and even more surprised if you didn’t think Al Hutchinson thought so to…

  • Alan Maskey

    Rory: I fully agree with you that the iRA should tell what thye know not only in this awful case but in countless others as well. But the IRA full well know and time moves on and people forget or have other things to do.
    Attacking the Catholic Church aand Chesney over Claudyt serves the interests of those who planted the bombs.

  • fin

    Its not
    Marty ‘Machine Gun’ McGuinness
    Marty McGuinness
    Martin McGuiness

    Petty point possibly but same as the inability of a certain section of the community to put ‘Father’ before a Catholic priests name, such as in Gregory Campbell press release about Claudy, its just plain annoying.

  • fin

    “the inability of a certain section of the community to put ‘Father’ before a Catholic priests name, such as in Gregory Campbell press release about Claudy, its just plain annoying.”

    I never call a catholic priest ‘father’. Why should anyone who does not believe the RCC PR machine do so? and that’s without going into the many and apparently varied sins of the ‘Fathers’.

  • fin

    what about Mullahs, Rabbis etc guessing you refuse to address them by their titles as well?

    I don’t believe in knighthoods etc, but in business I’ve had dealings with a few Sirs and always out of politeness address them in the proper way.

    as for ‘sins’ there are a lot of people been killed and abused in the world, I think the biggest incident was the the tens of thousands of children exported by HMG up until the 70’s who were used for sex and slave labour in places like Austrailia who only received a mumbled apology from Brown last year,

    as for killing, I reger you to the Deputy PM’s recent comments concerning the ‘illegal war’
    what are your thoughts on people sitting in the Commons?

  • vanhelsing

    Don’t suppose anyone is warming up suggest some politicians who are truthful 🙂

    Perhaps we should offer a prize for the best answer – how does Sovereignty of NI sound…

  • fin

    what about Mullahs, Rabbis etc guessing you refuse to address them by their titles as well?

    Actually your guess is correct and applies to everyone on your list. I see no reason to elevate someone to a platform I dont believe in or respect, although with the RCC you can add my utter contempt. You will expect me to refer to IP snr as ‘Your Lordship’ next! The HOL may be a good little earner for those elevated but since it is the last stop in the Old Boys Club I fail to see why it deserves any respect from me.

    Blaming politicians of whatever country for wars is fair enough, but don’t overlook the wars caused by religion.

    The abuse of children both here and in the UK is now well known, but within these islands only here did the families of the children have no where else to go. It was in the ‘gift’ of the RCC to ensure whole families were completely ostracised if the family or any member of it failed to toe the line.

  • Rory Carr

    Van Helsing,

    I am clear on what you said. I, in fact, quoted it in my previous post – that you did say that the Ombudsman had concluded that the Catholic Church, the Government and the RUC, “colluded to possibly pervert the course of justice “.

    I pointed out that this was wrong, that the Ombudsman concuded only that “In the absence of explanation the actions of the senior RUC officers….was by definition a collusive act.” So, only “senior RUC officers” are found by the Ombudsman to possibly have colluded.

    He also notes “public commentary” on possible collusion
    between Government, the RUC and the Catholic Church but himself makes no conclusions on that other than to say that the “morality or rightness of that” is a matter for further debate – a conclusion which I find inescapable.

    So, in conclusion: you have read me wrong, you have also read Hutchinson wrong – worse – you have misquoted him as concluding that which he did not and Alan Maskey has misread both Hutchinson and you, claiming, based on his misreading of your inaccurate statement, that Hutchinson had claimed Church collusion in the bombing, as he most certainly did not do and as neither did you.

    Alan, however, in his role as Archangel Michael-here-on-earth must rush to combat any perceived threat on the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church wherever it arises and we must not deny him his life’s mission.

    Must we?

  • fin

    OK, I nominate the Australian Govt. for its honest assessment of NI

    “We advise you to avoid the annual parades which occur in Northern Ireland during the months of April to August, especially the weeks leading up to 12 July. These parades may turn violent with little warning.”

  • Alan Maskey


    You are being a smart ass again. The organisd, institutional Catholic Church must answer for its sins, the worst and most unforgivable of which are institutional sloth and pride (two of the cardinal sins). Claudy is not one of them. Castigating the Catholic Church – par for the Windsor Park rabble and lapsed ethnic Catholic zombies – leave the real culprits off the hook.
    As regards Claudy: step forward Martin McGuiness and tell us, with the aid of a lie detector, what was the policy of the Derry City IRA after your positions were overrun in Operation Motorman.

  • fin

    but Pip, these individuals do not hold those titles or positions through your largesse, rather they are elevated to those roles by others, Rabbis exist because of the many millions of Jews who have created that position and Mullahs because of tens of millions of Muslims and priests for similar reasons. Do you not feel any responsibility to show respect for the beliefs of others?

    As an aside you are saying you would refuse to show normal decency to say a Catholic missionary how has spent his/her life helping the sick and poor in some third country by refering to them as Father or Sister because you feel your contribution to humanity is that much greater through…..what exactly.

  • fin

    Why stop there in the chain Alan, why not ask why Operation Motorman occured – or indeed Bloody Sunday, why did nowhere else in the UK apart from NI have no-go areas, why only in NI was hundreds/thousands of young men and women running around with guns and bombs.

    Should there not be a whole row of lie detectors lined up attached to senior army, police, local politicans, PMs and SoSs

  • joeCanuck

    Yes DR. The dissembler chose his words very carefully indeed. Nowhere did he deny that those informal etc talks discussions etc are taking place.
    The senior Southern politician who spoke when MMG made his statement did something similar; he said that no negotiations were taking place.

  • fin

    You have lead this little conversation off thread, but no matter, and no I feel no obligation to play the establishment game.

    I support and respect the right of people to follow their faith. I do not accept that in order for them to do so I should show any more than normal courtesy, therefore Mr is Mr and so is the mullah, the priest, the rabbi and the vicar.

    ‘Lords and Ladies’ is an old nick name for Elves and whether anyone believes in them or not is up to them. Sir is a word I haven’t used since I was at school. A bit late to restart now.

    People do what they do. If nuns etc need or want my approval they will wait a very long time. The Hell they invented will freeze first.

  • fin

    yes but Mr. is a title same as Dr. Sir Lady Rabbi etc. it sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder, do you feel you have failed in life? and therefore refuse to accept others achievements.

    But I am now intrigued, if you met the Pope would you call him Mr. Leo, or would that be Herr Leo, and is the queen Mrs Windsor

    I would warn you to be careful of calling Doctors plain old Mr. they can be very touchy and could really case you pain if they wanted to.

    Regarding the thread I think you’ll find I’ve nominated more politicans than anyone else!!

  • It took a while for the synapses to click together. I was reduced to recollecting recollecting the title of Anthony Cave Brown’s 1975 book on the D-Day feints and sleights-of-hand. I realised it’s Churchillian, at Tehran, to Stalin:In war-time, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.Does that let Whitlaw off the hook in 1972?
    Is the situation different for Patterson in 2010?

    I have no qualms about “partial” briefing. That has to be par for the course. In any case, very little “truth” is wholly so.

    I believe, though, we must draw the line at wilful subversion of the facts. Which is why (and I’m not intending “whataboutery” here) the infamous “dodgy dossier” receives continuing attention. The recent General Election campaign and the focus on things economic is more recent and relevant.

    A politician that tells the truth? is that an invitation to repeat the saw about “because you can see his lips moving”? Are politicians inherently less trustworthy than artists, who distort for effect? Yet we damn the one and admire the other.

    I noticed a while back a thread on libdemvoice, where Mark Pack was asking a question similar to vanhelsing here, except the context was the Alastair Campbell diaries. The thread quickly became more concerned with whether the LibDems had been straight on VAT during the Election campaign. My take on that was, as ever, it’s mote-and-beam, depending on stand-point.

    Worth a debate here, though.

  • Alan Maskey

    Pip: nuns did not “invent” hell. The Babylonians did.

  • fin

    You think I have a chip on my shoulder because I would treat all people equally? How odd. And no, no chips anywhere about my person.

    If Joe Blogs believes in X that is up to him. It makes no difference if he believes in isolation or has a million or more fellows in crowed churches. I respect and within the law defend his right to believe but that is it. Why on earth should I or anyone be expected to do more. It is not discourteous to call a priest Mr. It is treating him with the same respect I treat anyone who is not female.

    I would not willingly agree to meet either the Pope or the Queen. I have no respect for the Pope and my only opinion of the Queen is that she seems to have caused no scandals, which is more than can be said for her children.

    You are intrigued and I am curious, but at least I’m not accusing you of anything.

  • Alan Maskey

    I suspect that rather depends on the ‘school’ you went to.

  • joeCanuck

    Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighour. That implies it’s ok to lie to save your own skin. Best to assume that, a priori, politicians may be lying to you and to take everything with a pinch of salt. And, as Pop said in “The Jerk”, don’t trust whitey.

  • Comrade_Trotsky

    A Thompson is a SUB-MACHINEGUN – there’s actually a significant difference.

  • joeCanuck

    I know I said that I wouldn’t bother replying to you, AM but I must.
    You have been railing at the injustice of the suspicions about this priest yet you have, on numerous occasions, thrown suspicion of guilt at McGuinness without offering any evidence, only innuendo.
    Motes and beams come to mind.

  • fin

    yeap, whole chip visible there Pip, its not about treating people equally its about recognising their achievement in live, their position or their role. Its not about feeling that another individual is better than you, however in the case of someone who had the intelligence and commitment to study medicine and is than happy to work in that field I am more than happy to call them Doctor, its not that I feel they are better than me its that I show the accepted respect forwhat they are. No different for Rabbi’s or Lord whatever, that is what the individual is, I may not believe in it but I have the manners to address them for what they are.

  • fin

    mmmh school inside inverted commas, now that is interesting, what does school inside comma’s mean Pip, is it related to ‘chipshop’

  • fin

    Will you get over yourself, certainly there is room for recognising achievement, what by the way has a priest achieved that affords him the title ‘Father’?

    It has nothing to do with whether or not someone is better than me. How silly, you will not have to look far to find any number of people better than me!

    It is about the religion someone chooses to follow being his choice. I do not have to pay lip service to that religion to respect his choice.

    I should not, and nor should anyone else, be expected to conform to some non existent ‘rule of courtesy’, that is one of the reasons religion in general and the RCC in particular have been so successful.

    I will not play that game.

  • fin

    mmh school inside inverted commas, now that is interesting, what does school inside comma’s mean Pip, is it related to ‘chipshop’

    If it pleases you to think so fin.

  • Aldamir

    I’m currently watching the TV news in Hungary and they just had a piece about the Father Chesney case.

  • diarmaid

    marty may have had a machine gun but he didnt kill 13 innocent civillians after havin feasted on civillians in belfast 6 months before.

    he also never claimed not to have been involved whereas the rev was very much involved in creating an atmosphere that resulted in the deaths of innocents. he may not have fired the shots, but he directed the political rhetoric

  • Alan Maskey

    Because a mad bombing priest is sexy. Fr Torres, in Colombia I think, was an international icon, almost up there with Che. And it fits into the MI5 role of the sectarian Iirsh, with the good old Brits/Glannane gang keeping them apart.

  • jim

    whos FATHER is he