High level govt meeting considered indemnifying British troops before Motorman in 1972…

Interesting find by Relatives for Justice trawling the national archives in Kew in London, which…

…contains minutes of a meeting held at Stormont Castle on Monday July 10, 1972 – less than three weeks before Operation Motorman, when thousands of British soldiers stormed into the ‘no-go’ areas of the Bogside, Brandywell and Creggan, shooting dead two people.

The minutes also refer to plans “to be produced urgently for the containment of areas known to harbour bombers and gunmen.” Operation Motorman took place on 31st July 1972 (the same day Claudy bomb killed nine civilians). Neither of the two Derry fatalities were armed.

This is where the report gets interesting. The Derry Journal notes just how senior (and political) the attendees were:

It was attended by some of the most senior figures in the British government and the security services. Among those listed as present are William Whitelaw, the first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who was appointed after the old parliament under Brian Faulkner at Stormont was prorogued.

Senior politicians Lord Windlesham, Paul Channon, and David Howell were also present alongside senior Stormont civil servant Kenneth Bloomfield.

The Deputy Chief Constable of the RUC and the GOC of the British army, the most senior soldier serving in the North, also attended the meeting. MI6 officer Frank Steele, who had opened up clandestine talks with the IRA in the same year, was also at the Stormont Castle meeting.

The meeting was held just three days after secret talks took place between IRA leaders and representatives of the British government. Those talks had taken place at Paul Channon’s Cheyne Walk home and involved senior republicans including Provisional IRA Chief of Staff, Sean MacStiofain, and Martin McGuinness.

The talks, which took place during an IRA truce, failed to find a solution and the truce ended with the IRA bomb attacks in Belfast on Bloody Friday.

And finally:

Controversially, the meeting also discussed protecting soldiers from possible court action as a consequence of their actions. “The Army should not be inhibited in its campaign by the threat of Court proceedings and should therefore be suitably indemnified,” the minutes state.

This is interesting. If this was ever hardened into a motion and passed, it would have been a clear breach of law, and a straightforawrd justification for those who continue to believe a illegitimate shoot to kill policy was being pursued.

But the whilst the fact that iit was discussed at local level is proof that that such a policy was considered, there is no evidence that such was enacted. The motley crew involved in this meeting would have had no such power.

I suspect if any such document (a Cabinet Office minute confirming agreement for instance) did exist it is highly unlikely to have made its way to the Public Records Office this side of 100 years. And maybe not even then.

  • I suspect if any such document (a Cabinet Office minute confirming agreement for instance) did exist it is highly unlikely to have made its way to the Public Records Office this side of 100 years. And maybe not even then. ….. Mick Fealty

    Crikey, Mick, how long have you been scribbling away here and stirring the political pot and you still don’t get it, do you.

    Whatever it takes, whenever it is decided and the law will do as it is told, is the state of play today, and has been for …….. oh since probably forever.

    And it is incredibly naive to think otherwise.

  • sherdy

    ‘there is no evidence that such was enacted’
    How many dead bodies would you need to count as ‘evidence’ Mick?

  • And as for present day evidence of the lawless state of wider everyday mainstream play, how about this doozey in the global ponzi that is the rigged money markets …….. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/summarizing-jamie-dimons-congressional-testimony

    And that train wreck of a show is only just really beginning now.

  • Desmond Trellace

    Come on, Mick, stop feigning naivety.

    A country like Britain has been dependent down the ages on people who are willing to go to territories outside the island of Britain and do a bit of bloody dirty-work for them. How else can they and have they imposed their will? It is clear that Britan cannot afford to start prosecuting these people (its armed forces) for roughing up and killing people etc. because it might not find too many people to do the job the next time around.

    Is this blog called “Slugger O’ Toole” or “Uncle Paddy’s Cabin”?

  • galloglaigh

    I can’t believe you wrote that without mentioning the UDA…

  • Mick Fealty

    Look lads, the fulcrum of the story is the minutes? Okay, what do they prove? That it was talked about? In the context of 200 gun attacks in one weekend amongst local officials?

    I’m only saying its not a smoking gun.

    UDA Gallo? I saw it but at this time no go areas were the norm. Viliglantism was accepted within policy at the time. I don’t see much that we don’t already know?

  • andnowwhat

    And last night’s BBC reported that the very next day a young kid, who was innocent. was shot dead (and of course, had his name defamed) by the name of Gerald Gibson.

    70 people shot that very year by the army and according to the BBC, the vast majority of whom were civilians

    This case goes along with soldiers whose fingers slipped on to the trigger of a gun and just happened to kill an innocent person (what’s the chances?), a man walking along with his mates in Derry who was meant to be carriyng a gun and shot from within the security of a sanger, a little girl on a quiet country road who was in the middle of an imaginary gunfight and so on.

    In fairness to the RUC, they did sometimes try only for the MOD to tell them to get fek’d

  • galloglaigh

    You see Mick, that’s a wee bit of a kop-out. The UDA were kidnapping and murdering innocent Catholics in 1972. But to the British machine they were the good ‘bad guys’. It puts the overall story of the minutes into context. It also adds well to the theme of victims created by the military in 1972, and the general religion they happened to worship. When you also add the fact that most were innocent, it kinda connects the thinking of the two loyal factions don’t you think?

  • Desmond Trellace

    “The Army should not be inhibited in its campaign by the threat of Court proceedings and should therefore be suitably indemnified”

    How does the saying go, “a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse”?

    Everybody who is mature enough to know the ways of the world knows that people were murdered, tortured etc by the armed forces in NI, don’t they? It’s a fact so what’s the bid deal at this stage?

    But haven’t we moved on from all that since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

  • lamhdearg2

    Did someone mention the bbc(n.i.), their web news was true to form on this story*, it gave the RfJ line five times before listing the “only considered” one, then the report went for the heart strings with the story of the young lads death, before multiple reference to the RfJ line again. Is no one watching out for basis in the local news.

    * story now seems to be dropped.

  • lamhdearg2

    bias.

  • BluesJazz

    As it was a sectarian religious conflict, can we get the religious breakdown of the terror groups:
    PIRA
    INLA
    UDA
    UVF

    and the peacekeepers;

    The British Army

    I suspect the latter may not have had a religious ‘dog in this race’ so to speak.

  • Mick Fealty

    Gallo,

    I’m aware of that. Someone, whom we still to this day don’t know, made short work of Claudy the day Motorman happened. Even MacStiofan, who was a disarming and urbane sort of creatur in person seemed somewhat numbed by it at the time.

    Funny enough, no one was killed on the day of that meeting. The weekend before five Catholics, four Protestants, two IRA and one UDA men were killed. Casualties included a Catholic Priest and a man who tried to save him and an unarmed junior member of the Official IRA (14) who tried to drag the preist’s body out of the field of fire.

    Also an English born Catholic TA soldier (who was living in West Belfast at the time) who was shot along with two Protestant companions possibly (Lost Lives speculates) after being stopped by one of those Provisional IRA patrols that were being tolerated by the British at the time.

    The day after three Catholics, one Protestant and a soldier were killed. At this stage, Belfast was full of a paranoid population utterly spooked by small gangs of equally, not moreso paranoid killers.

  • BluesJazz

    “day after three Catholics, one Protestant and a soldier were killed. ”

    Interesting that soldiers were neither ‘catholic’ or ‘protestant’. Or anything??

    Anyway, is there a list of how many atheists or agnostics were killed? All ww2 histories just list nominal nationalities (in the USSR, not even that). What religion was Lenny Murphy? What religion were the children murdered in Warrington?

  • galloglaigh

    That old ‘Peace Keeper‘ chestnut. BluesJazz, have you been in a cave for 50 years?

    The majority of those killed by the British army, were innocent Catholics. That is an undeniable fact. The very reason may have something to do with the above meeting. We’ll probably never know. But the fact remains, that the vast majority of those killed by the British army, were innocent Catholics, often going to the aid of other dead Catholics. A number of those were killed with their arms raised, and posing no threat!

  • galloglaigh

    That old ‘Peace Keeper‘ chestnut. BluesJazz, have you been in a cave for 50 years?

    The majority of those killed by the British army, were innocent Catholics. That is an undeniable fact. The very reason may have something to do with the above meeting. We’ll probably never know. But the fact remains, that the vast majority of those killed by the British army, were innocent Catholics, often going to the aid of other dead or wounded Catholics. A number of those were killed with their arms raised, and posing no threat!

  • John Ó Néill

    I think the context being given for this here is inordinately weak. Inter alia, the British Army had killed 43 people in 1971 – many in contentious circumstances (some of which have never been fully established). Significant questions had also been raised about the role of the Army during internment in August 1971 and the subsequent treatment of internees in the Compton Report in late 1971, while they were dismissed by Compton, the ECHR was later to find it to be torture. The British Army had killed another 30 people by the end of June 1972, including those shot on ‘Bloody Sunday’ which in many ways provides the most significant event not mentioned above: the report of the Widgery Tribunal at the end of April 1972.

    If we want to place the above meeting in its correct contemporary perspective, all of the interests represented had clearly had time to digest both Widgery and it’s public reception, then capture their particular areas thoughts and bring them to a high level meeting. While I am not suggesting that the purpose of the meeting itself was to review the issues raised by Bloody Sunday and Widgery, it is simply not possible that a minute like the following should be included in July 1972 and not referenced to the points listed above:
    “The Army should not be inhibited in its campaign by the threat of Court proceedings and should therefore be suitably indemnified,”

    In many ways, the monies spent by the government in challenging the long accepted findings that Saville ultimately arrived at was no more than a continuation of that policy by other means. They did not indemnify soldiers in a legal sense, but they put the weight of all the resources of the state on their side of the scales of justice to try and prevent any finding against them when they shot innocent civilians.

  • Mick Fealty

    You may be surprised to hear that I broadly agree with that John…

    But likr those who insist on viewing the Jean McConville case from the lens of the peaceful and settled naughties… you have to recognise the immediate context of the time, and that that people were living in sheer paranoia in their reactions to the apparent randomness of the violence, particularly in 1972, which even as a kid in a relatively unaffected part of the country I recall as the most fearful time of my life…

  • sonofstrongbow

    As is the modus operandi of Irish Republicans conjecture and wild extrapolation always arise in these circumstances. Thus we have a ‘minute’ morphed into a ‘policy’ without a pause for thought.

    In common with many people in life and in business I’ve attended innumerable meetings. Quite often I’ve seen outlandish and impractical thoughts committed to minutes. I recall during one gathering discussing the refurbishment of an historic building a suggestion to replace the slate roof with tin.

    Today many years later the building in question still sports its reworked slate roof. However if I were to trawl through the ancient meetings I’m sure I could produce ‘evidence’ of the ‘policy’ to desecrate our built heritage.

  • BluesJazz

    The Army are well trained in the ‘yellow card’ rule when engaged in trying to keep the peace between ethnic/religious tribes.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/383102.stm

    How would a soldier know if the person shooting at him was a catholic or protestant? Or jewish or greek orthodox?
    I think I’ve asked before but is there a religious breakdown of the Army in the same way as the PSNI?

  • John Ó Néill

    I forgot to add: the RUC forwarded it’s file on Bloody Sunday to the DPP on 4th July.

    Anyone who has attended meetings know that there are issues that get included in the minutes and those that are deliberately excluded. Notes/minutes would have been kept and updated by very senior officials and would have reflected what they wished the record to show as being the discussions held (cf the recent discussions over the absence of minutes for meetings and decisions over the Republic’s bank guarantee scheme as an alternate approach to record keeping).

    From a historical perspective, that minute [“The Army should not be inhibited in its campaign by the threat of Court proceedings and should therefore be suitably indemnified,”] may have been extracted for comfort by the army chiefs from the senior politicians and civil servants as a converse of the pledge LBJ got the US generals to sign in 1968 stating that Khe Sanh would not turn into another ‘damn Din Bin Phoo’. As it coincides with subsequent state practice (if we set aside the idea of ‘policy’ for the moment) regarding legal redress against members of the military who use deploy fatal force, it is significant in terms of identifying how far practice may have been reflecting an unstated policy (which is central to discussions of responsibility and legitimacy around the state’s use of violence). Taking the Khe Sanh/Dien Bien Phu pledge analogy, I think it suggests tensions at a high level over who might carry the can for violence in the north and that the service chiefs required some level of comfort to convince themselves that they wouldn’t be hung out to dry if the government change policy: particularly given the immediate backdrop of the discussions with the IRA leadership, as referenced above. In the light of Whitelaw’s free-styling articulation of policy, that’s hardly a surprise.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Look lads, the fulcrum of the story is the minutes? Okay, what do they prove? That it was talked about? In the context of 200 gun attacks in one weekend amongst local officials?

    To quote from the RFJ press release:

    “Of the approximate 300 hundreds killings by the British Army there has only been convictions in three cases. All of those convicted were released significantly early and reinstated back to their regiments. Some were promoted. The processes of investigation into these hundreds of killings were perfunctory whereby a situation of de facto impunity existed. The discovery of this document indemnifying British soldiers from the threat of court proceedings whilst they took their ‘war’ to nationalist communities with the ‘utmost vigour’ is the first official documented evidence of a policy amounting to impunity. It is a clear amnesty being put in place for what would later occur, the inevitable loss of life. In 1972 the British Army killed 79 people. Not one soldier was held to account for these killings.

    “This document provides an important insight into the mindset of the British government and those directly involved in and responsible for ‘security’ and its policy development. A policy that went onto have disastrous consequences for our entire community. Many observers will view this document as sectarian in its outlook and strategic approach.”

  • ranger1640

    Have the rfj, ever thought of this? The reality is, no IRA violence no Army on the streets, no alleged shoot to kill policy. Have they ever considered that point of view?

    The facts are this, if there hadn’t been any IRA activity, and the IRA had not used their communities as cover. Then the Army and the RUC would not have needed to be there. So who is ultimately to blame?
    As for the armchair generals who have never been in the firing line. A gun man/woman/teenager/terrorist and an innocent bystander often look the same, and on many occasions one morphed into one and the same.

    If these alleged protectors of the community had not been using that community as cover for their terrorist activity, then no Army needed to be there, and no return fire could have been given.

    On the wider point of meetings and minutes, republican terrorists were then and still aren’t very adept at distinguishing between innocent bystanders, not just PUL bystanders from Loyalist protagonists.

    How about as a matter of balance, we ask for the minutes of the IRA’s army council meetings? We can all see how they targeted the PUL community and everyone else for that matter. There are plenty up at Stormont and in the Dail who can get copies of those IRA meetings and minutes? Or will they be full of redacted paragraphs and missing minutes, like the testimony/account give by a senior IRA terrorist, at the inquiry into the events of January 30th 1972.

  • Will somebody please do everyone a big favour, and break and put that tired old crappy record in the bin where it should have been put years ago.

    Ye gods, it is worse than having to listening to the clueless Conservatives blaming all of the present woes on the lacklustre Labour party. Grow up …. move on …. do something radical and different to prove that you can actually think and recognise what is going on all around and in the bigger pictures and can actually do something to change things for the better rather than reacting like spoilt ignorant and arrogant children needing firm guidance and leading instruction.

    Stormont a leading institution? Oh please, you cannot be serious? Do you think the electorate are idiots and will always swallow that guff in the light of the mountains of evidence/unsatisfactory non-resolution of troubles and problems to the contrary?

  • Oops, sorry for leaving y’all in the dark there for a moment. That would be the scratchy disc/warped record which ranger1640 played on 20 June 2012 at 1:49 pm

  • lamhdearg2

    If I had a document that PROVED “themuns” where at it, I would publish it,and damm them, however if I thought there was little in it really, I would pick the bits i liked dress them up real juicy, and pass them to a sympathetic press, i think it can be termed, making hay while the sun shines.

  • fordprefect

    The British Army, RUC, UDR et al were given the go-ahead to kill all round them (especially catholics), WOW, what a shock!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not!

  • galloglaigh

    Yep BluesJazz you’re right. Daniel Hegarty was given a yellow card, then shot dead. Catch yourself on. The Army were as bad as the IRA. The Army prolonged the troubles. All the evidence stacks up against your argument – which is utter bullshit to say the least!

  • sonofstrongbow

    Making hay …….., AKA – spinning.

    Although a little historical spinning can be enjoyable. The soon to be released film portraying Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter appeals. Could be straight out if the Ken Loach filmography.

  • BluesJazz

    FordPrefect/galloglaigh

    Were/are soldiers taught anti Roman Catholic theology at Catterick/Colchester/Sandhurst etc? It’s a bit strange that at least 1 GOC was a Catholic. Is it something to do with transubstantiation or Oliver Cromwell? The latter, being a republican, would be strange.
    I never thought religious belief was a high priority for a squaddie, but if you say it is, then it must be so.
    Wonder how the Gurkhas feel about the pro Lutheran Army ethos?

  • ranger1640

    Here is how Sinn Fein define actions by the IRA

    “Mitchel McLaughlin, went even further on last Monday’s Questions and Answers. Responding to the following comment from Minister Michael McDowell: “Mitchel and his colleagues believe that any volunteer carrying out any authorised action on behalf of the IRA doesn’t commit a crime because the IRA is the legitimate government of this country.”

    McLaughlin coldly replied: “Yes, and I believe it happened in the context of conflict.”

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/sf-is-not-a-political-party-it-is-a-political-wing-463420.html

    So therefore using Sinn Fein’s logic, all authorised actions of the Army and RUC, being part of the legitimate government of Northern Ireland cannot therefore be a crime.

  • galloglaigh

    So ranger1640, what you are saying, is that because Mitchell McLaughlin says that anyone acting as an IRA volunteer isn’t committing a crime, this justifies the killing of innocent Catholics by the British army? Such a blind viewpoint; I must keep that comment for future use!

    BluesJazz

    How many Protestants did the British army kill during the troubles?

    How many unionist terrorists were interned by the British government?

    How many UDR personnel went to Sandringham?

    How many unionist terrorists were drinking buddies with the British army?

    How many British army weapons were passed to unionist terrorists?

    How much money was filtered out of the British army to pay for unionist terrorist activities?

    Why were almost all of the victims of unionist terrorists innocent law abiding Catholics?

    Why were almost all of the victims of the British army innocent law abiding Catholics?

    Also: Why did the British army hand over files on innocent Catholics to unionist terrorists?

    The answers are, that they were using tribal differences, to prolong the sectarian conflict they and their unionist terrorist colleagues were inflicting on the non-loyal Catholic population. You mentioned Cromwell, he did the same thing nearly 400 years ago. Nothing changes eah!

  • Whenever one considers such dirty little turf wars as are the likes of “the Troubles”, to imagine that there are any heroes in the field of leadership there, is somewhat perverse.

    One needs only remind oneself of the fate delivered by such heroes to the likes of the Birmingham Six, whom such leaderships knew, beyond a shadow of any doubt, were innocent of the crimes they were charged with and convicted of, but were happy to sacrifice them nevertheless to the System, and have them incarcerated in a foreign penal regime and robbed of their freedom and a natural life to do as they pleased.

    And how odd that they didn’t think to seek punitive compensation from those responsible for withholding evidence of their innocence, when justice is perverted and a casualty of subversion.

    And is it a fact that Stormont offices have such leadership in place, instead of the real thing? It would certainly explain why there is no progress in the country whenever cuckoos are sitting in the eyrie, the feathered nest bed that rakes in other folks’ wealth for their [Stormont office heads and legislative assembly members] decisive spending from the public purse.

    And it must also be said, intelligence services and Westminster media players must also be equally deficient and bankrupt in the necessary qualities required to driver real change and present future stable and prosperous improving situations.

    Currently can one not deny that things appear to be going backwards and poverty is being reintroduced and spread amongst the population with the imposition of austere and taxing new programs ……… and that aint leadership by any definition.