Martin McGuinness’s challenge should be accepted. Offer immunity in exchange for disclosure to those who took decisions on both sides of the long war

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has mounted “a stinging attack” on Martin McGuinness for saying he would have “ no difficulty “ in disclosing his own role as an IRA leader in dealing with the past. An outsider would be taken aback at the vehemence of Nesbitt’s reaction.  On the face of it, McGuinness’s offer sound interesting if not original, particularly with regard to timing. Is something stirring over dealing with the past as outlined in the abortive Stormont House Agreement?

Those who are more familiar with the subject recognise  that Nesbitt has a point – although he would  be better probing McGuinness’s statement than attacking  it.

For a start, McGuinness is speaking only for himself and not for the whole former IRA. Does he want the others to follow his example? This may be implied. If so, he should make it specific. That would be progress.

McGuinness also calls for the British government to “open the files.” That implies all the files. But  we all know that this is impossible under present conditions as (in theory at least) all files are liable for review as potential prosecution evidence by a proposed new Historical Investigations Unit.  An unlikely coalition of human rights activists including Amnesty International, the British government and the unionist and Alliance parties are in favour of this approach. No amnesty, never, never, never!  So McGuinness, Nesbitt and everybody else know that full access to official files is not on.

What might be possible? Limited access to what remains of  the Stalker-Sampson evidence and Stevens reports which is now available to inquests are surely prime candidates. These relate to the main  “ shoot to kill “ and collusion  charges that are such bones of contention. It ought to be possible to say more than the de Silva report on “who pulled the strings, not who pulled the trigger.”

An explanation  is required for why most of the Stalker-Samson files were destroyed in 2013.

Sinn Fein may well want to depict the British- controlled security forces as equally  compromised, dirty combatants in a dirty war which included the widespread use of loyalist paramilitaries as agents of state terrorism against nationalist suspects. Their challenge should be met. If it has some merit, that merit should be acknowledged. Establishing basic truth is in the end better than avoiding it. Truth will out in the end and both sides of the community would be better off facing it. So would the reputation of the British and Irish Governments at home and abroad.

There is an undoubted  asymmetry which  requires correction in less than forty years.The case against the IRA is well established in thousands of convictions and prison sentences.  Evidence already  gathered for inquests and the Police Ombudsman has built a   case against the State strong enough  to require  more comprehensive answers,  without going through every single file now in official hands first to eliminate it for prosecution. If the republicans are pursuing diversionary tactics, the State still has to answer charges  of procrastination and delay hiding behind due process.

The best initial response to Martin McGuinness would be to match his  personal offer of candid disclosure as a leader with  similar offers from decision-takers on the State side, on condition that  both sides are offered immunity.

 

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  • Nevin

    “[Martin McGuinness] would have “ no difficulty “ in disclosing his own role as an IRA leader in dealing with the past.”

    This doesn’t coincide with what Martin reportedly said:

    “If, in any circumstance, any of that has a connection with myself, in relation to people levelling allegations or whatever, then I will deal with that. That’s not a difficulty for me whatsoever.”

    As Mike Nesbitt noted:

    “He has already made clear to the Saville Inquiry there are facts he will not disclose ‘under any circumstances’ and this latest statement remains true to that sentiment.”

  • chrisjones2

    There is a file with the DPP on Bloody Sunday for example. Will this cover all those that day including the soldiers and others who may have committed much more minor offences like possession of a machine gun or the man seen by Bishop Daly attempting to murder solders ? Or will it be just the soldiers?

    Answers on a postcard to the First Minister ……..

  • Thomas Barber

    Are you suggesting unless everyone is charged no-one should be charged Chris ?

  • Thomas Barber

    It seems Sinn Fein are in a no win situation when it comes to dealing with the past in any truth commission its dammed if they do and dammed if they dont but as usual hypocritical unionism supports the right of the British government to withhold information regarding the past in the interests of national security. A useful tool to cover up the role of its intelligence agencies and its state forces in hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of murders.

  • john millar

    I am afraid it can`t happen

    1 Will the protagonists put their hands up and admit to Premeditated murder ?

    (the the crime of wrongfully and intentionally causing the death of another human being (also known as murder) after rationally considering the timing or method of doing so, in order to either increase the likelihood of success, or to evade detection or apprehension.)

    The “paramilitaries” would be in the dock immediately as a result of the ” rationally considering the timing or method of doing so” bit
    The state??
    The vast majority of the dead are innocent “bystanders” How could the state have done the ” rationally considering ” bit for Greysteel, La Mon etc?

    The paramilitaries will take up most space in any “”dock” so it can`t happen.

    2 Some at least of the perpetrators now have money/possessions/property They might lose some of it if civil actions were enabled based –on their disclosures.

    Sorry can`t happen

  • Thomas Barber

    John wasn’t it the British Prime Minister Theresa May who claimed those who supply the guns are just as guilty as those who pull the trigger and wasn’t it, “The State” through its agents the biggest supplier of loyalist weapons and intelligence that were used to murder hundreds of innocent victims.

    So the State can in fact be accused of premeditated murder.

  • john millar

    In the case of the state it will be difficult to meet the test

    “after rationally considering the timing or method of doing so, in order to either increase the likelihood of success, ”

    This is all smoke and mirrors

    ” the biggest supplier of loyalist weapons” item cannot be proved”

    The guilty will avoid accountability

  • Thomas Barber

    Perhaps you’ve never heard of Brian Nelson John the state agent who along with his British intelligence handlers imported hundreds weapons into this country that were later used in murder and the state agents who attempted to alter the firing pins of some of those weapon that were used to murder or those State forces who supplied loyalist paramilitaries with the weapons that were later used to murder Patrick Finucane and seven other innocent civilians in the Ormeau road bookies and Devenish arms.

  • john millar

    The problem is connecting the dots

    Brian Nelson ….. the state agent who ……..along with his British intelligence handlers ……….imported hundreds weapons into this country…….. that were later used in murder ……….and the state agents who attempted to alter the firing pins of…….some of those weapon that were used to murder or……… those State forces…………. who supplied loyalist paramilitaries with the weapons that were later used to murder.,

    Insert proof instead of dots

  • chrisjones2

    No …I am putting the dear DFMs answer in context

    Personally I would like to see all those who committed crimes charged …but that will never happen

  • Teddybear

    Replace the name N Ireland with Zimbabwe and Martin with Mugabe and this article and thread would still read correctly.
    We are European people of the Judeo Christian civilisation. How did we come to this?

  • Thomas Barber

    For a start John those weapons used to murder Patrick Finucane and seven others were in the possession of the RUC, RUC officers handed those same weapons over to loyalist paramilitaries. The weapons imported into this country by Brian Nelson were used in the murder of Rose Mallon and at Loughinisland the same weapons were used in other murders but the firing mechanisms were altered in an attempt to erase their ballistic history by a special unit within the RUC the above are facts not assumptions or accusations and the evidence is already in the public domain.

  • Thomas Barber

    What context ?

  • Jollyraj

    How about this: all serving politicians with a paramilitary past to offer full disclosure of their past acts of terrorism?

  • eireanne3

    I actually get the chance to write a “dear John” letter!!!!

    Dear John
    sorry to have to break the bad news and disillusion you but please have a look at the dirty war parts 1 and 2 on a wordpress site near you. See how the british state recruited agents and what they did
    https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/the-dirty-war-2/

  • Thomas Barber

    Why just politicians, what about serving Police officers and Army officers ?

  • Oggins

    Chris, agree will never happen, but what is a realistic point to help draw a line ?

  • mac tire

    “the biggest supplier of loyalist weapons” item cannot be proved”.

    A British study (as far back as the early 70s), “Subversion in the UDR”, found that between between 5-15% of UDR men had widespread paramilitary links and that the UDR was the single best source of Loyalist weapons, particularly modern ones.

    So it wasn’t just agents – but also a regiment within the British Army!

  • Thomas Barber

    Scap was always a RUC informer Eireanne he was a petty thief and a house breaker during the early 60s late 50s and was in Borstal for his criminal activities he was also well known for carrying a knife in those days. His boss and OC of the IRA internal security unit that Scap was Adjutant of was John Joe Magee an ex member of the British Special Boat Squadron he was also a British and Irish government agent

  • Redstar

    Alas Chris you and other one view bigots are blind to realities which do not suit your twisted logic.

    Let’s take Cameron- hardly an Irish Republican- he admitted ( during the Finucane enquirey) and apologised for the fact that at one stage up to 70% of loyalist/ unionist paramilitary intelligence was coming directly from British security services.

    So Chris if you want to point fingers let’s start by those murdered by the state assisted UDA etc as acknowledged by your erstwhile PM.

    Not fantasy, not Republican propaganda, just facts- men women and children were butchered by the Unionist UDA and a PM acknowledges they were helped by the state.

    Spin your way out of that.

    Btw I have no time for MMG so this is no defence of him- lest we forget he now says Republicans should work for the same state security services- my question to Marty on that one is, admirable though you may feel it is that Republicans should work for British security services-when exactly did you personally decide to go down that road….many think a long time ago…

  • NotNowJohnny

    There are a number of issues here. What constitutes a serving politician? Does it include councillors and/or members of the House of Lords/Dail Eireann? What constitutes a paramilitary past? Does it include members of the Ulster Special Constabulary, Ulster Vanguard or of the wider Republican movement? What does full disclosure mean? Does it mean disclosing everything which they knew, incidents which they were aware of or only incidents which they were direct participants in? Does it mean revealing the names of other parties who knew something or were involved? And what constitutes an act of terrorism? Does it include directing terrorism? Does it include acts of unlawful killing such as Bloody Sunday? Does it include incidents which didn’t result in death/injury. Does it include failing to prevent acts of terrorism? Does it include the shooting dead of a British Army soldier in a gun battle? What about those involved in acts of terror who were not members of any recognised paramilitary organisation? And disclosure in exchange for what? Full immunity from prosecution/amnesty? I don’t expect you to have answers to these questions but not having them helps show just how complex this issue is.

  • Declan Doyle

    It seems as if Marty is sending a message out that himself and his fellow travellers are up for the challenge of confronting the past and legacy issues. Hopefully other politicians from across the divide along with the governments and security personnel are ready to do the same. He is careful with his wording as he should be, it’s crucially important that all of this is approached cautiously and sensitively. We the public need to be sensitive too, we need to put the victims centre stage and step away from our own bias and prejudices. This should be about brining closure for victims on the basis of THEIR needs. Those who hop on the bandwagon calling for self interested vengeance or engage in political opportunism need to think twice, they could risk the entire exercise.

  • Thomas Barber

    Now you’ve opened a can of worms Johnny, dont be expecting any responses from the usual unionist/loyalist sluggerites.

  • Ciaran74

    That doesn’t make sense unless you are trying to hide something. Why not all politicians with a past in NI?

  • Ciaran74

    Curious parallels given the common denominator.

  • chrisjones2

    “It seems as if Marty is sending a message out that himself and his fellow travellers are up for the challenge of confronting the past and legacy issues. ”

    Your naivety is touching. This is just positioning

    “closure”

    Many victims would see closure as Marty and his ilk in gaol. Others will want reparations from him and others. Is that all on offer. If not, no closure.

  • chrisjones2

    I cannot see one. The victims are just another cow to be milked politically

  • chrisjones2

    In the context that his ‘offer’ was conditional. There is still no commitment at all to tell the whole truth and the aim on all sides will always be that themuns is exposed

  • NotNowJohnny

    Can you point out half a dozen of these curious parallels?

  • Thomas Barber

    How do you know he wont tell the whole truth, where does it say above that his offer was conditional or do you expect him to reveal all before any agreement is made then maybe you and unionism will decide whether he is telling the whole truth.

    By the way can he not use matters of national security to cover up any embarrassing details that could place him or others in difficult positions just like the British government, after all he is joint first minister of Northern Ireland he’s just another British government minister.

  • Jollyraj

    Fine by me. All politicians. Including those who have flown south for winter, mind you.

  • Ciaran74

    Do I get a gold star if I hit 6 or more? I think I understand Teddybear’s lament on our unhappy pathway to here but without the denominator there would be no ‘Mugabe’ or ‘Martin’.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You get a gold star if you hit 3. Having experienced Zimbabwe during the Mugabe era, I struggle to see many parallels … hence my request to you to help me.

  • eireanne3

    interesting – got any proof?Links?

  • Ciaran74

    I’ve a colleague who was in the British army and spent time in Africa. Interesting stories. My comment was less about the place initially and more about why parallel here with Zimbabwe, and Martin with Mugabe at all. Is Martin the frequently cartooned senile despot or the earlier guerilla version, or just so non-negotiable it’s either? Either we would like answers to the why and what questions or we don’t. If not why keep asking at all.

  • eamoncorbett

    Have a look at the South African model.

  • Ciaran74

    Austin Currie??!! Depending on the T&C’s he would disclose. Every combatant could if the environment was right.

  • Oggins

    Aaa chris, I am a cynical fool a lot of the times, but if it is said by a shinner, you will always boohoo it.

    The main fact is that something needs to be done. We will never deal with every case, but for the good for all, we need to draw the line somewhere.

    I am no fan of the shinners, but up for something were we can draw lines and move on

  • eireanne3

    “An explanation is required for why most of the Stalker-Samson files were destroyed in 2013″.
    Compare and contrast: ordinary decent criminals vs political criminals
    Today ” attackers rammed the Brussels Institute of Criminology with a car before the building was ravaged by fire and explosions” “Investigators said the suspected arsonists set fire to a laboratory used to analyse DNA samples found at crime scenes.
    ‘So it’s an act that could be linked to (destroying) several files,’ Van Wymersch said”.

    They’ve already arrested 5 people. Any arrests in NI for similar destruction of evidence?
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3763106/Bomb-explosion-outside-Brussels-Institute-Criminology-attackers-rammed-building-car.html#ixzz4IlE9OjOI

  • Ciaran74

    If we have a broad oral history it allows some balanced analysis rather than myth building and reducing the impact when passing the poison chalice on. And we will pass it on. Not challenging the means to have unrestricted history and some opportunity to do something with it is a selfish message for the future, near included.

  • Thomas Barber

    Regarding Scap afraid not they are the words from the mouth of someone who engaged in those criminal activities with him and who was in borstal with him a person who has lived in England for the past maybe 40 years and a recollection I was surprised to find was verified by my mother who I was also surprised to find also knew him in his younger days due to the fact he ran around with her brother. He has no reason to lie and I suppose if one had the time and resources to investigate further the facts would emerge.

    Regarding John Joe that is well known in republican circles a quick google will reveal all but –

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/news_alert_mi5terror_6.html

  • Declan Doyle

    Absolutely, also a very convenient way of covering up any possible collusion between Unionist Politicians and Loyalist paramilitaries in cahoots with the security forces.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m aware of the South African model. However I’m not sure that is what Jollyraj is advocating here. But I could be wrong on that.

  • eireanne3

    thanks a lot thomas – re your mother’s info on Scap – it tallies with what i had heard from other local word of mouth sources –

  • AntrimGael

    What do you mean ‘State terrorism against Nationalist suspects’ Brian? Suspected of what? Being Irish Nationalists, Catholics, Taigs, Fenians? NO truth commission is going to happen, not now, tomorrow or in 10/15/20 years. The British and Unionism want Republicans to take sole blame for the conflict and in Paisley’s words ‘to wear sackcloth and ashes’ for evermore. Unionism is in denial about it’s role in the murder of over a 1000 people, mostly innocent Catholics, while Britain taking part is such a body will be the British State quite openly admitting that it murdered it’s own citizens and thus the Hague would have to be involved and indict Britain for genocidal crimes. Unless it’s a level playing field and Britain, Unionism and Republicans are in something where equal ‘guilt’ and responsibility is accepted and acknowledged NO Nationalist or Republican with any sense of decency, stomach or pride will touch it with a bargepole but then the way the Shinners are currently operating they will probably be glad to put their arms up and take the blame for everything……so long as Arlene and the DUP are happy, that’s ALL that matters for them!

  • AntrimGael

    ALL we want is the truth and reparations for the Glenanne gang; the UDR/RUC paramilitary militias; the British Intelligence/Special Branch control, arming and directing of the UVF and UDA; the British State murders of Pat Finucance, Rosemary Nelson, Eddie Fullerton and numerous Republican and Nationalist politicians and public figures; the murderous campaign against the Ulster GAA; the Dublin/Monaghan bombs, the New Lodge and Ballymurphy massacres. If not NO closure!

  • AntrimGael

    Does that include Unionism and The Third Force, Ulster Resistance, South African arms imports? There are many within current constitutional Unionism who have a LOT to disclose about their links with Loyalist terrorism.

  • Jollyraj

    Yes, it includes all those involved in terrorism.

  • Jollyraj

    Gerry Adams, I would imagine might have a fair contribution to make.

  • Jollyraj

    Do you want the IRA to answer for their crimes, too? Would it be appripriate for Sinn Fein to make reparations for the crimes of its military wing?

  • Ciaran74

    I quipped about Austin. GA was the person referred to. It feels unlikely that the key reciprocator here on the subject in the British Govt will take part. They either won’t allow trust to build or leave it until everyone on all sides has died before that New Year memory lane is released, if at all.

  • Thomas Barber

    Well said AntrimGael however the truth will emerge despite Britains attempts to destroy the evidence of its own connections to terrorism and murder on a wide scale, for some that day is approaching –

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/aug/18/uncovering-truth-british-empire-caroline-elkins-mau-mau

    for more –

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/08/britain-imperial-myth-repackaging-fantasy

    “The Guardian reports that the British government is paying compensation to the nearly 10,000 Kenyans detained and tortured during the Mau Mau insurgency in the 1950s. In what has been described by the historian Caroline Elkins as Britain’s own “Gulag”, Africans resisting white settlers were roasted alive in addition to being hanged to death. Barack Obama’s own grandfather had pins pushed into his fingers and his testicles squeezed between metal rods. The British colonial government destroyed the evidence of its crimes. For a long time the Foreign and Commonwealth Office denied the existence of files pertaining to the abuse of tens of thousands of detainees”

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/sep/27/uk.syria1?cat=politics&type=article

    Britains role in the destruction of Syria today and the wider Middle East is also nothing new but as usual hypocritical unionism refuses to take its head out of the sand and continues to provide the cannon fodder for the same people.

    “Nearly 50 years before the war in Iraq, Britain and America sought a
    secretive “regime change” in another Arab country they accused of
    spreading terror and threatening the west’s oil supplies, by planning
    the invasion of Syria and the assassination of leading figures.

    Newly discovered documents show how in 1957 Harold Macmillan and
    President Dwight Eisenhower approved a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border
    incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western
    neighbours, and then to “eliminate” the most influential triumvirate in
    Damascus”

  • Ciaran74

    You have to say it’s a working strategy for the DUP – outright rejectionism taught them that the slow walk can give them the option of strangulation or (snail) pace setting. It appears Unionism believes it only needs longevity not momentum. That longevity can offer up infallibility both pre-1970 and post.

    Perfect for Britian.

  • Thomas Barber

    Why does that not surprise me Eireanne the truth that is emerging is embarrassing and no doubt the republican movement like the British government would prefer to disappear. Re Scap, John Joe and Mc Shane etc. it is also well known they liked to knock back a drink or two and in fact organised most of their operations from local watering holes a fact that is also true regarding many loyalist paramilitary barstool generals.

  • Granni Trixie

    I do not think it is helpful if the price of unlocking knowedge of the past is to pretend “we are all to blame”.

    For example how can politicans who never supported terrorist tactics “be ready to do the same” – if they have no history/baggage what material have they got to play with?

  • Granni Trixie

    Your list would be on my list of disclosure too – but if you don’t add paramilitary atrocities to the list then it is sectarianising the past and is less likely to lay the past to rest.

  • Granni Trixie

    And what is John Cushenan to come clean about?

  • Thomas Barber

    Indeed Declan its only a matter of time before the truth emerges that the Shankill butchers were in fact RUC special branch agents and Gusty Spence himself revealed that a unionist politician told him of the re-emergence of the the UVF and how he would be in control of that organisation.

  • Declan Doyle

    All parties should step forward together. Quite obviously, those who have nothing to share have little to say and no, not everyone is to blame but yes, everybody has a responsibility to carry this through by either participation, accommodation or encouragement ,for the benifit of all victims.

  • Ciaran74

    I haven’t mentioned him. That said we may never know. Is Project Eagle now consigned to history?

  • Granni Trixie

    I think we may be talking at cross purposes – I am talking about an Alliance leader who went on to become a FG MEP – would be v surprised if he had any connection to Eagle.

    I was making the point however that like Currie he is likely to have no ‘past’ to disclose.

  • Roger

    I think many would just like to know the truth. Gaol isn’t an option.
    Time is ticking. Adams and McG are 60 plus already. Soon they will be 70 plus assuming they get there. Thatcber is already dead. Numbers of witnesses are dwindling. None of them will want to do time in jail. If conditions were right they might be willing to tell the truth.

  • Roger

    Does reparations extend to victims of the IRA? Will Marty et al be required to dip into their large pensions?

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  • Ciaran74

    Understood now. Agree, these gents have nothing to disclose on military activity but they would broaden the base of understanding of how it came to be a war from civil protest.

    Trucking out paramilitaries only won’t deliver the true picture of the answers we’d like.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Nesbitt’s issue with McGuinness was though that the latter was trying to offer a trade off of *some* truths from him personally vs the entirety of British classified security documents. It was a rhetorical, PR ruse by McGuinness and Nesbitt was calling him out on it.

    It’s the latest in the long-practised McGuinness strategy of offering apparently magnanimous gestures which are actually all about creating a veneer of respectability for SF. Meeting the Queen was another example, which he was able to pass off as if he were a diplomat meeting a foreign dignitary; it escaped many commentators at the time that McGuinness was not acknowledging the Queen as sovereign of N Ireland. PR win for SF; nothing lost; while actually not being particularly magnanimous at all to the people he needs to apologise to in N Ireland.

    It is a veneer because SF has shown no seriousness about actually telling anything like the full truth of what the IRA did, who made what decisions and why. At the same time, they have adopted a stance of wronged victimhood for their own part, poring over any incident they can find of state wrongdoing in the course of the policing operations against the paramilitaries, and emotionally demanding the most detailed of inquiries into them.

    Having carried out the bulk of Troubles violence, they now seek to make hay for themselves from the occasional failures in the state’s response to their terror. It has very little to do with a genuine interest in getting comprehensive truths about who did what in the Troubles. It’s purpose is as a smokescreen for the benefit of potential SF voters, aimed to distract attention from the IRA central role in the Troubles and giving an inflated impression of state wrongdoing compared to IRA actions. All you have to do is talk quite a lot about the 5 per cent or so of Troubles murders that had a state involvement and talk not very much about the 60 per cent that were carried out by Republicans. Hey presto – we have the appearance of virtual parity. Throw in some statistically illiterate ‘analysis’ of Troubles deaths and you have the whole SF-friendly picture.

    Some nationalist voters unfortunately have been too often quite willing to believe the self-exculpating distortions being peddled by SF, for after all, it’s not nice to think that your own ‘side’ might have been the main aggressors; and it’s comforting to imagine it was all somehow necessary. This is how SF proceeds. It is really galling. Glad Nesbitt called him out.