NI Police Ombudsman: “It’s very easy to raise allegations – I think the important thing is whether there is any evidence behind it”

Having investigated a complaint from the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams – following newspapers reports in 2006 which alleged that members of the RUC knew of a 1984 UDA gun attack on Adams in advance, or were themselves involved – the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Michael Maguire, has published his conclusions.

Dr Maguire has said he has found no evidence that police knew of, or were involved in away way, in the attack on Mr Adams:

We have talked to all the people involved in the events that day, including the perpetrators, the victims and the police. We have examined all the available evidence, including forensic and sensitive intelligence material and found no evidence that police knew of the attack beforehand,” he said. [added emphasis]

On the 1984 attack itself, the NI Police Ombudsman details the events immediately afterwards.

Loyalist gunmen opened fire on the car containing Mr Adams and the four men as they made their way from Belfast Magistrates’ Court.  The driver, despite being hit twice by the gunfire, managed to get the vehicle to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where they all received medical attention.

An off-duty UDR soldier who was driving in the city centre at the time, gave chase to the gunmen’s car. As it stopped in traffic, he got out of his vehicle and drew his firearm. A policeman, who had also been off-duty, then arrived on the scene, as did two soldiers who were in plain clothes.

The three gunmen in the car were then detained. They were ultimately convicted of the attack and were given significant jail sentences.

As the NI Police Ombudsman press release further notes

Mr Adams made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman’s Office following articles in two newspapers which reported that members of the RUC knew of the attack beforehand.

He alleged that the police or the security forces either had prior knowledge of, or had been involved, in what happened. Mr Adams said he felt ‘something was not quite right’ about the entire incident and wondered how security force personnel ‘coincidentally’ appeared at the scene that day.

The Police Ombudsman extended his investigation to include claims reported in the media that a police informant, who was a highly placed member of the UFF, was involved in planning the attack; that a retired RUC detective said police knew of the plan a week before it happened, and that the bullets used had been ‘doctored’.

A Police Ombudsman team spoke with Mr Adams, to the soldiers who arrived on the scene, to members of the public who saw what happened, to the gunmen who carried out the attack and to a number of retired police officers.

They examined a variety of police documentation, including papers contained in the ‘crime file’ compiled during the RUC investigation of the attack, and a range of sensitive ‘intelligence’ material held by police.

And

The off duty UDR soldier and the two other soldiers have provided accounts as to how they came to be present at the scene. These accounts have been supported by independent witnesses.

The off-duty police officer who also arrived on the scene has since died.

Police Ombudsman investigators also spoke to journalists involved in the media reporting which prompted Mr Adams’ complaint. They were unwilling to reveal where or from whom they had received information that the police or the security forces had been involved in the attack.

Investigators examined the relevant ‘intelligence’ material held by police. They found nothing to indicate that police had any information warning them of the attack or that any of their informants were involved in what happened.

Investigations established that none of the three guns recovered from the scene had ever been used in previous shootings.

The Police Ombudsman had the ammunition used in the attack examined independently by a leading firearms expert. He found no evidence that the items had been tampered with and said they had ‘lethal potential.’

As Gerry Moriarty reports in the Irish Times, Gerry Adams has criticised the Ombudsman’s report as “incomplete” and has called for his findings to be “set aside”.

Mr Adams today thanked Dr Maguire and his staff for their investigatory work. He said however that he is to write to him asking him to set aside his findings. “In my opinion this report is incomplete. The ombudsman should seek access to British Army files and other pertinent intelligence records and set aside his conclusions until this is done,” he said.

Mr Adams said that Dr Maguire did not have access to British army files or those relating to its “Force Research Unit which was the British intelligence agency principally responsible for running agents and informers, like Brian Nelson, within the UDA”.

Given that one of Adams’ repeated complaints in his press release [dated 18 June] relates to his time in the Royal Victoria Hospital following the attack, it’s worth noting that we already have some additional information on that.

In a note on the file for the NIO Under-Secretary John Patten on 22 March, R F Sterling, an official at the Stormont Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), reported that Mr [Martin] Smyth [UUP] had phoned the minister’s office to complain about reports that Sinn Féin members were guarding Mr Adams and his colleagues.

According to Mr Sterling, the South Belfast MP was “particularly indignant that these people were reported to be stopping and questioning members of the public within the hospital”.

Mr Sterling explained to the minister that Mr Adams and his companions had been housed in a secure ward and placed under the protection of armed police.

All four, he noted, were material witnesses to an armed assault and “clearly their lives were at risk”.

And, as the BBC report adds, the NI Police Ombudsman has already responded to Adams’ criticism of his report.

Dr Maguire told the BBC: “First of all, my remit is specifically in relation to the police – I have no remit over the military or any other agency involved.

“As we say in the report, intelligence both prior to and following the attack was requested from both the police and the military and all sensitive material was reviewed.

“The important thing for me is whether the police knew the attack was going to take place – my conclusion is that they didn’t.

“Secondly, was there any evidence that those on the ground had advance knowledge that the incident was going to take place? I found no evidence of that.”

Mr Adams had complained to the ombudsman about possible collusion after a newspaper report said the police had been tipped off a week earlier by an informer inside the UDA.

Dr Maguire said that while reporters he spoke to would not reveal their sources, “we had access to far more information than any journalist had, and in looking in that material I find no evidence to suggest there was prior knowledge and nothing was done”.

“It’s very easy to raise allegations – I think the important thing is whether there is any evidence behind it,” he said. [added emphasis]

Indeed.

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  • RegisterForThisSite

    “Indeed”

    Indeed, is right, so the short story is he asked the Police and Army for any files they had and he read the ones they gave him and concluded the police and army were innocent.

    But reading the papers on any given day tells me that the police, army and HMG rehold files (national security, data protection etc), and destroy evidence (accidentally)

    Until police reform is completed you will struggle to get nationalists to believe anything to do with justice and policing,

    Or as the Policeman said

    “…The Detective Inspector in charge of investigating the attack said he was not aware of the police or the security forces having any information prior to the shooting, but acknowledged he may not have been aware of all the intelligence…”

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com John Mooney

    Its reasonable enough that the complaint was brought, reasonable that it was looked at, reasonable that the victim, perpetrators co-operated as did the PSNI giving access to their original investigation and Intelligence.
    No reasonable person could disagree with the Conclusion.

    Which means of course….in the week of the 20th Anniversary of Loughinisland, the Ombudsman cannot get the same PSNI co-operation.
    A reasonable person might well say that they have something to hide.

  • Reader

    RegisterForThisSite: Until police reform is completed you will struggle to get nationalists to believe anything to do with justice and policing,
    Surely the fundamental problem here is that there is no evidence whatsoever for any collusion in this case, and some people are still not satisfied?
    Of course, there is another flavour of republican who also believe that if the Brits had ever wanted Adams dead, he would be dead.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Yet again Dear Leader helps to illustrate why the Shinners and their promotion of a “truth” [sic] process is simply crude nationalist propaganda.

    As PONI has been informed by Jarry, and despite a lengthy Ombudsman investigation, the only ‘truth’ nationalists are interested in is the ‘truth’ that accords with their fantasy take on recent, and not so recent, history.

  • tacapall

    I have to agree with Adams on this one. Its 1984 and three men in a car shoot and injure men in another car and an off duty UDR man an off duty RUC officer along with two plain clothes British soldiers just happened to be on the scene and they all supposedly had no knowledge of who was doing the shooting and who was the target and all those involved in doing the shooting were all alive to see the inside of a courtroom. Please, that’s stretching the imagination a bit, joyriders were executed for less in those days. Anyhows, remember them days when the chief constable was able to deny all allegations of collusion stretching way back to the 70s and beyond.

  • Pete Baker

    tacapall

    Look again at what actually happened.

    An off-duty UDR soldier who was driving in [Belfast] city centre at the time, gave chase to the gunmen’s car. As it stopped in traffic, he got out of his vehicle and drew his firearm. A policeman, who had also been off-duty, then arrived on the scene, as did two soldiers who were in plain clothes. [added emphasis]

    The three gunmen in the car were then detained. They were ultimately convicted of the attack and were given significant jail sentences.

    And, as the Ombudsman’s report has noted

    The off duty UDR soldier and the two other soldiers have provided accounts as to how they came to be present at the scene. These accounts have been supported by independent witnesses. [added emphasis]

    The off-duty police officer who also arrived on the scene has since died.

    Now, I know that Gerry’s 2006 complaint stated that he had a feeling in his water that “something was not quite right” about the entire incident…

    But Gerry’s had some very expensive, private, laser treatment in the US since then!

  • RegisterForThisSite

    “there is no evidence whatsoever for any collusion in this case, and some people are still not satisfied?”

    Shame you didn’t reach the end of my comment

    “but acknowledged he may not have been aware of all the intelligence…”

    @tac

    Hardly an unusual MO for state killings, they were returning from a court hearing (so police knew there whereabouts) and the perps are arrested immediately afterwards it all sounds quite familiar, of course this time……

    @SoS can you or anyone explain what the ‘Jarry’ thing is, is it meant to be a piss-take of Northern accents, how is it meant to be an insult to Adams

  • RegisterForThisSite

    “The off duty UDR soldier and the two other soldiers have provided accounts as to how they came to be present at the scene. These accounts have been supported by independent witnesses.”

    as you’d say yourself Pete ‘indeed’ I mean is it difficult to send an email saying ‘I was shopping’

    ‘But Gerry’s had some very expensive, private, laser treatment in the US since then!’
    and we can only hope that others get the treatment they need some day, Pete

  • Reader

    RegisterForThisSite: Shame you didn’t reach the end of my comment
    “but acknowledged he may not have been aware of all the intelligence…”

    This was a reference by the Police Inspector who investigated at the time. Did you think it referred to the ombudsman? The ombudsman seems to have had no such reservations.
    I’m interested in how you think the following was scripted:
    “An off-duty UDR soldier who was driving in the city centre at the time, gave chase to the gunmen’s car. As it stopped in traffic, he got out of his vehicle and drew his firearm.”
    Also interested in whether you think the gunmen were in on a plot to have themselves locked up for years?

  • Son of Strongbow

    RegisterFTS,

    The “Jarry thing” you ask? I’m channelling my underclass accent in a condescending stylee. It’s very popular these days don’t cha’know?

    If you want to give it a go try rolling the word ‘fleg’ around your mouth a few times and you’ll have got it off to a tee. ;)

  • Reader

    tacapall: Please, that’s stretching the imagination a bit, joyriders were executed for less in those days.
    While stuck in stationary traffic?
    The UDR man didn’t need a cast list to see and recognise an assassination attempt; at which point he did exactly the right thing – whoever were the attackers, and whoever were the victims.
    It’s weird that you regard this as suspicious. What would you have done if you were in possession of a legally held weapon and a position of responsibility? Are there circumstances in which you would have opted to let the attackers escape?

  • aquifer

    I am sure that Gerry thanked the brave UDR citizen who did more than his duty.

    Collusion?

    For the Provos spying and conspiracy to murder were the rule, not the exception.

    Any place in Northern Ireland at that time with numbers of people around was likely to contain brave men and women with legally held firearms who faced the threat of murderous ambush at home and at work. This was in Belfast city centre near the city hall.

    Get over it, lucky Gerry.

  • keano10

    Aquifer,

    You’re a full scale hypocrite with that last comment ( “Lucky Gerry”). Dont come any of your so-called middle of the road nonsense on here when you’re barely conceding your satisfaction that he was nearly assassinated on that occasion. ( Because attempted assassination is exactly what it was).

  • Dixie Elliott

    And yet 3 years later in May 1987 with the help of Brian Nelson they saved his life when the UDA planned to attach a limpet mine to the roof of his armoured car….

    Its all in the De Silva Report and it also figured in ‘Colonel J’s’ evidence at Brian Nelson’s 1992 trial.

  • gendjinn

    Glory be! It’s a miracle. Pete can see reports from the Ombudsman’s office. Just not the ones that are critical of the PSNI. Baby steps.

  • gendjinn

    For the Provos spying and conspiracy to murder were the rule, not the exception.

    Well, they had to lower themselves to British standards of behaviour.

  • Morpheus

    So GA alleged that the police or the security forces either had prior knowledge of, or had been involved, in the attack on him in 1984.

    The Police Ombudsman “examined a variety of police documentation, including papers contained in the ‘crime file’ compiled during the RUC investigation of the attack, and a range of sensitive ‘intelligence’ material held by police.” and concluded:
    “The important thing for me is whether the police knew the attack was going to take place – my conclusion is that they didn’t.”

    Fair enough, he is the Police Ombudsman after all his “remit is specifically in relation to the police” and he has “no remit over the military or any other agency involved.”

    So in effect, he is right, based on his examination of the evidence in front of him at this time as far as he is concerned the police were not involved, that’s one half of the accusation ruled out for now.

    Now that the police have been ruled out if GA wants to take this further he needs to focus on the other half of the accusation – the security forces aspect of it but the Police Ombudsman isn’t the place to be looking for that.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Suddenly Gerry’s all in favour of investigating things without a proper truth recovery process again.

  • Morpheus

    I don’t think he is CS, he seems to be using the proper channels to investigate all the evidence available to either prove/disprove his accusation when it comes to his attempted murder…the same as you or I would. Just because he is GA shouldn’t be a factor.

    The PO has done everything that is within his remit and based on the evidence at hand he has ruled out police involvement. GA now needs to see if there was security force involvement and who knows, maybe when that evidence comes to light there may be something in there which reinforces the PO’s conclusion – or not.

    There is a bit of ambiguity between the PO Statement and what Dr Maguire says. The statement says that
    “They examined a variety of police documentation, including papers contained in the ‘crime file’ compiled during the RUC investigation of the attack, and a range of sensitive ‘intelligence’ material held by police.”

    …and Dr Maguire said:
    “As we say in the report, intelligence both prior to and following the attack was requested from both the police and the military and all sensitive material was reviewed”

    One says that they reviewed police intelligence and the other says police/army intelligence.

  • Jagdip

    Slightly off topic, but has anyone any idea why SF hasn’t rushed to pour criticism on the Opposition justice spokesperson in the South who was revealed to have written a letter to a court seeking leniency for a convicted drug dealer.

    The Irish government is all over it, with An Toaiseach even wading in to criticise the interference. But, not a word from the Shinners.

    How odd.

  • gendjinn

    Comrade Stalin,

    Suddenly Gerry’s all in favour of investigating things without a proper truth recovery process again.

    We should be on the look out for moving statutes. Or invest in lotto tickets.

    But seriously, I think Morpheus has it right. One may prefer a given solution but if it’s not available you use the tools & channels that are available.

    Who owns the FRU files – the PSNI or MI?

  • gendjinn

    Adams is calling the report incomplete as it did not have access to British military files.

    Looks like he’s citing the absence of FRU files in the review – which would explain why no evidence of fore knowledge was found as this is where it would be, not in the RUC archive.

  • Morpheus

    I agree gendjinn. A cynical person might even say that the PO is screaming at Adams that he is looking in the wrong place. “You are accusing the police and security forces…the POLICE aren’t involved, we have looked at POLICE documentation, my remit is the POLICE”

  • gendjinn

    Morpheus,

    Indeed. Watch this thread now die :)

  • Morpheus

    Indeed

  • sean treacy

    Jagdip,You say “not a word from the shinners”.Sorry to disappoint you but Maurice Quinlivan of SF called for Collins to resign.He was on the main RTE news last night doing so but if you depend on your news being filtered through sites like this ,you only hear what you want to hear.

  • aquifer

    Keano10

    “you’re barely conceding your satisfaction that he was nearly assassinated on that occasion”

    That is an outrageous slur.

    Death by gunshot is horrible and I detest it.

    I hate guns and pity the inadequates who would use them.

  • keano10

    Aquifer,

    Slur? You made the comment “Lucky Gerry” so stand by it. Some people might argue that it’s not exactly “lucky” to be shot 5 times in a gun attack…

  • Comrade Stalin

    Morpheus,

    I don’t think he is CS, he seems to be using the proper channels to investigate all the evidence available to either prove/disprove his accusation when it comes to his attempted murder…the same as you or I would

    I don’t think so, on two counts. Firstly, that’s not how Sinn Féin saw Gerry’s arrest a few weeks ago.

    Secondly, the police ombudsman doesn’t have jurisdiction over anything to do with the military or the security services, which Gerry knows too well.

    Glenjinn:

    One may prefer a given solution but if it’s not available you use the tools & channels that are available.

    Gerry is calling for an investigation into the behaviour of the military (FRU). There are no tools or channels available for this outside of the truth recovery process, which Gerry and his party resisted when they opposed the British government’s plans to grant the army immunity in exchange for revealing the facts.