Jeffrey Donaldson admits that Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries will never provide full disclosure…

It ought to come as no surprise, but no doubt it will, that Jeffrey Donaldson said rather bluntly on Nolan this morning, chances of full disclosure from the paramilitary organisations responsible for most Troubles related deaths (loyalists, 29.9%, Republican 57.8%) are none.

The full burden of disclosure around killings is apparently only aimed at state forces (9.8%). Even if state agents within the paramilitaries were responsible for individual murders, it’s unlikely that we can move move neatly from paramilitary to state murder column.

But it points to a messy (if largely faux) game being played out in public to try to ensure some kind of amnesty of the type Gerry Adams secretly lobbied the British for back in May 2000.

In practice cold cases can be re-investigated to bring conviction conviction level justice to relatives. But since that has only happened in cases concerning dissident (or post Provisionals) or rogue loyalists it suggests non conviction is informal policy.

As Hugh Orde pointed out (a tad bitterly it seemed to me) on The View last night that the one instrument that was bringing something like the truth to victims was stymied by the Stormont House Agreement and no replacement likely to emerge from that largely theoretical document.

In composite whilst protesting publicly (and encouraging relatives to seek justice only from the state) SF’s engagement ring-fences Loyalist and Republican murderers from the Troubles, whilst seeking transference of responsibility for all killings to the state.

Them’s the rules, apparently. And Mr Donaldson now appears to be unafraid to admit to knowing it. The question is where next?

After Danny Morrison’s successful action in the High Court, is the judicial route the best way for relatives to get some modicum of justice?

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  • Nevin

    “it suggests non conviction is informal policy”

    According to Alan McQuillan, the policy was probably more than one of non-conviction, it appeared to be non-investigation for those who London and Dublin could do business with – the untouchables:

    Mr McQuillan said: “There was a great desire by the British Government to play down these things, to not admit that the IRA were still active in crime or active at all.

    “We could only take cases on referral from other law enforcement agencies so they had to give us the cases.

    “We got lots of cases of loyalist crime and we were hugely successful against those – to the extent that the unionists began to complain about bias.

    “But what we would not be getting were the really hard-core entry into the criminality of republican paramilitaries.”

  • Glenn

    Declan Kearney refused to answer the direct question on this mornings Nolan show, as to the IRA. The terrorist organization who carried out the most murders, shootings and bombings, where do IRA victims go to, to get IRA documents on their terrorist activities??? If as Sinn Fein and republicans insist that the IRA don’t exist anymore??? Notwithstanding the fact that a report stated that the provos so called army council still existed and influenced Sinn Fein. Similarly for the UVF, UDA and INLA???

  • Discuscutter

    Mabye but they both will still give a lot more than the Army, the police or the Intelligence services.

  • barnshee

    HMG should stop propecting their informers and spies in the Ra and elswhere Hang the lot out to dry

  • Thomas Barber

    What is the point of this thread Mick, are you telling us anything new from an ex member of the security forces, unionist MP and member of the privy council, who regardless, would never accept any narrative from republicans as truth unless it suited the British/ Unionist agenda. Are we expected to accept that because republican and loyalist paramilitaries might not disclose the whole truth then we should also accept that the British government should be allowed through the use of “National security” to cover up the past misdeeds of those members of the RUC, Brtitish intelligence, state agents who were according to the former police ombudsman Naula O Loan, complicit in hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of murders. Would the same unionist politician/s accept the British government using national security as an excuse to withhold information regarding the Shankill bombing, Raymond McCord whos son was murdered by British state agents has been fighting a lonely batlle for justice for his son for almost two decades his plight ignored by unionist politicians like Jeffery who despite the evidence either refuse to accept or simply brush under the carpet the fact that the same people who murdered his son were state agents controlled by RUC officers who allowed them to murder over a dozen innocent victims without fear of conviction.

  • Discuscutter

    If they do that they will have to do the same for the Loyalist paramilitaries.

    Everyone with a position of authority in Loyalism was an agent.

    Was there even one action in the last 30 years that was not known about by one branch or other.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    will they really?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    wouldn’t that make any future recruitment of informers almost impossible? Which presumably they will have to do (and are currently doing).

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the evidence is there, it’s in the heads of many thousands of people – it just needs to be taken down in the form of written affidavits and hey presto we have written evidence. However, something tells me the paramilitaries will remain keen for it to stay in their neurological circuits and off the page, as it allows their supporters to cry “But what can we do, there is no evidence”. And they do, a lot.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but do you think the paramilitaries should start getting the oral testimony record together, for their part?
    I hear what you’re saying on state agents – you have your angle on that I don’t agree with but let’s not get into that again – but just on the question of the paramilitaries, given they are around 90 per cent of what we’re talking about here, what would you say are their obligations now as regards providing information?

  • Lorcs1

    The Boston tapes affair put paid to most paramilitaries notions of part-taking in any kind of truth recovery process. It showed ultimately, that no matter what guarantees are given at the time, confidentiality can be overruled by judge.

    Why would anyone want to open themselves up to prosecution in this way?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    We should add also in that 60/30/10 split of killings, that a large proportion of the state’s 10 per cent were not actually murders, but legal, authorised use of minimum force or manslaughter, where death was the unintended result of action by the soldier (usually) involved. The true state figure of actual murders, to compare like with like, is likely to be much lower. Sorry for those trying to bump them up but they actually need to be bumped down.

    Security forces killings, based on the Sutton Index of Deaths totally 363:

    159 were of paramilitaries – unclear how many they ‘murdered’ but fair to assume a substantial number were killed where state forces acting within the Yellow Card rules. If someone has a further breakdown I’d read with interest.

    192 were of civilians of which:
    – 84 were of members of the public where circumstances are unknown (so some could be murders, presumably not all though)
    – 40 were killed in street disturbances or in vicinity of gun battles with Republicans (possible that some may have been deliberate but surely not all)
    – 9 were mistaken identity killings by undercover units trying to kill Republican paramilitaries (could count as murder, not necessarily though)
    – 33 were shot while engaged in criminal activity (robberies, stolen cars etc) – again some might have been murders, but surely not all.
    – 16 were killed by rubber or plastic bullets
    – 10 were killed in altercations with security force patrols
    For all these, you’d need to go into each case, but we can assume only some were actual murder, properly so called; others may have been manslaughter; others still may have involved no wrongdoing by security force personnel (e.g. they acted properly following Yellow Card procedures). The context is, they came under attack a lot, so made a lot of decisions on the use of force throughout the Troubles.

    12 were largely mistaken killings of other security force members (likely none of these murders).

    All in all, let’s assume we’re being harsh on the security forces here, you might allow perhaps for half of those to be murders in the proper legal sense, bearing in mind the mens rea required (you need to prove at least recklessness towards causing an injury of at least the GBH level, I think – though my criminal law is very rusty). That figure of half being murders seems very high to me, but just supposing. That would put the real security force ‘murders’ figure down by 180 or so.

    I’m not sure how many Loyalist (or Republican killings for that matter) some people seek to pin on the security forces now through having infiltrated the paramilitaries, but say they manage to show 200 – again, I’d be very surprised – that would get us to around the 10 per cent total we were at before.

    So it kind of looks like the attempt to shift more blame onto the security forces may not be quite as neat for Republicans as they hoped. Rather, overturning their 60 per cent responsibility for Troubles murders is a Sisyphean task. Quite a long way to go and progress very, very slow. But then again, it won’t deter them – they know making a noise about it is all that matters – it’s creating an impression that they focus on, not the truth. And they will continue to try to make enough noise about a small proportion of Troubles deaths that they can fool the innumerate. Who are, ironically, rather numerous, especially in the media and the arts.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Honesty? Truth? Justice? The fact they’re asking others to do it?

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    You make a number of firm and irrefutable points. Particularly the attempt to use a ‘collusion’ narrative to implicate the security forces in “many hundreds” of murders; as at least one high profile commentator would have it.

    This is of course nothing new. Terrorists and the useful fools who aid them have always been keen to sidestep responsibility for incidents that raised particularly widespread revulsion.

    As far back as the ‘Poppy Day’ atrocity, and probably much before that too, the terrorists responsible for the massacre sought to blame the security forces for setting off the bomb with soldiers’ radio equipment, before the terrorists could make a warning call about the bomb as they supposedly intended. Nonsense and lies of course, but some will buy into it.

    In a time when ‘politics’ and the “peace process” is to the fore it is unsurprising that this approach becomes even more of an imperative. To the extent that, for some, it appears as a defined policy.

    There will be increasing attempts to shift the responsibility for the dead of the ‘Troubles’ onto ‘State actors’. I expect that the ultimate destination is a version of the past that portrays a myriad of security force agencies fighting each other with the terrorists as mere marionettes dancing at the ends of their Machiavellian strings.

    Yet one might ask why back in the day the almost daily murders did not result in the loyalist and nationalist terrorist godfathers making statements to the effect that the carnage was not done in their name?

  • Thomas Barber

    “That would put the real security force ‘murders’ figure down by 180 or so”

    Obviously you simply dismiss out of hand the revelations by the former Police Ombudsman who claims the security forces were complicit in hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of murders carried out by state agents.

    Are you calling Naula O Loan a liar ?

  • barnshee

    stop confusing people with facts

  • MainlandUlsterman

    She claims ‘hundreds and hundreds’ but it is not clear where she’s getting her numbers from, or if it was just a bit of a vague “there were loads”. The Chief Constable of the PSNI certainly seemed to think she was exaggerating. It may be that she’s counting any Loyalist murder of which a state agent had fore-knowledge – which stretches the definition of “died because of” beyond breaking point – but she needs to explain herself.

    For reference, here’s what she said on Panorama last year:
    “They were running informants and they were using them. Their argument was that by so doing they were saving lives, but hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people died because those people were not brought to justice and weren’t stopped in their tracks.”

    Let’s look at what she’s actually saying there. She seems to be objecting to running informants full stop. She says the “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people died” because the informants were left in place. For that to be true, we would need to compare the number of deaths which happened when the informants were in place with the number of deaths that would have happened had there been no informants. O’Loan seems confident the former is a number “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds” higher than the latter. On what basis though?

    I can’t see any reason to think the terrorists would have killed hundreds fewer had it not been for the intelligence operations against them, which involved at its core infiltrating them with informers. To be honest, it sounds a little absurd.

    In her defence, no one can of course know how many would have died without the state running informers. She is entitled to her assertion that the paramilitaries would have been much better behaved and the best state course of action in stopping terrorism would have been just to let them get on with it. But I’m very sceptical: that seems a rather Pollyanna view and it seems motivated more by wanting the state to have clean hands than to save lives. In theory it may be possible to do both but in reality when running informers, you’ve chosen to save lives over looking good. If the state had not sought informants, sure, it wouldn’t then have risked getting blood on its hands, as it ended up doing. But it would have been in the dark about what the paramilitaries were doing and given even more of a runaround than they were. I find it hard to believe that the paramilitaries, free of the worry of being grassed on, and less closely motioned by the state, would have reduced the deadliness of their campaigns. I’d be interested to hear Baroness O’Loan’s explanation of her theory in more detail.

    So I would suggest it’s highly unlikely the net effect of O’Loan’s preferred policy of not running informants would have left the public better protected, or saved lives overall. But look, we can only guess – no one can ever know what would have happened. But the thing is, grand and eminent though she is, O’Loan has no more idea how it would have turned out than anyone else. There are many, many, many others with knowledge of the ins and outs of the anti-terrorist security operation – including Da Silva, for example – who think that the net effect was very probably the saving of many, many lives. And that can’t just be written off as if it’s unimportant compared to the lives lost. It was absolutely at the heart of the awful strategic dilemmas the security forces and the state were handed by the paramilitary campaigns.

    The state chose to save human life over keeping its hands cleaner than clean – a choice it never asked for but morally had to make – and I for one find it hard to imagine any state doing otherwise. That’s not to excuse the wrong-doing in individual cases, just to look at the state record overall as regards the loss of human life in the Troubles. I think it’s very hard to argue that the state’s actions had a net effect of costing lives over the 30 years. But that is no consolation to the people who lost theirs due to wrongdoing. Not walking away from that for a second.