OTR legislation and the attempt to re-write history

Kevin Myers picks apart the proposition being put forward by Gerry Adams that at the end of the Troubles only the forces of the state should be held accountable, whilst anti state forces should be given a general amnesty.

Gerry Adams once again spake in Shinnese on the issue last week, when he denied that republicans had double standards in seeking to close cases for republican paramilitaries, but to keep them open if they involved members of crown forces. “The fact is that hundreds of people have been killed by the British crown forces, and there is an attempt to cover up this issue, and I think people understand that.” Only in the burlesque world of Shinnery could such preposterous falsehoods exist. Go, as one should daily do, to David McKittrick’s Lost Lives, to get a measure of how risibly evil the Adams world-view is. Republicans were responsible for 58.3 per cent of all deaths in the Troubles. The regular British army was responsible for 6.5 per cent, and special forces were responsible for 1.7 per cent. The RUC was responsible for 1.4 per cent. The UDR (as UDR) killed eight people, just 0.2 per cent. Yes, point two per cent. The regiment’s dead numbered some 200 – surely, the highest disproportion in any conflict anywhere. The Royal Irish Regiment’s contribution to the dead of the Troubles? Nought per cent.

The British army was responsible for 158 civilian deaths, 4.27 per cent of the total. The IRA killed 644 civilians – 17.4 per cent of the total. The IRA also killed 163 republicans. In other words, republican fratricides accounted for more deaths than the total number of civilians killed by British soldiers. Moreover, many killings by soldiers were in return-fire incidents, which had been initiated by terrorists, and young soldiers had to make instant, often impossible decisions about whom to shoot and whom not. Such killings of the innocent cannot usually and decently be called murder. Moreover, the pressure of terrorist warfare explains 13 “blue-on-blue” security force killings of their colleagues.

Nationalist Ireland has been tiresomely but predictably huffing and puffing about the “scandal” of letting security force colluders go free. And in Tony Blair’s abject and craven attitude towards Shinnerdom, he might even give ground here, with British soldiers thus finding themselves in the dock while republican and loyalist terrorists are effectively pardoned for far worse crimes. If that is so, Blair may now withdraw his troops from Iraq before they mutiny there or, more probably, stay in barracks, reading porn.

For, as a group, the British army suffered massively in the Troubles, with 688 dead. And how many terrorists were convicted of involvement in murdering soldiers? Four hundred? One hundred? No. Just 81. Which means that the deaths of 597 soldiers went without any punishment whatever.

Moreover, most of those convicted were in fact bit-part players, while the really serious killers – the snipers, the bomb-makers, the land-mine detonators, the point-blank assassins – why, they have mostly never been punished for their crimes.

The simplest way of drawing an end to the most purposeless, stupid and unproductive terrorist campaign of the 20th century in Europe is to say its crimes will not now be judicially revisited. The dead are dead, the guilty are guilty, but there can be no question of creating a legally binding hierarchy of victimhood, of rightness and wrongness. We may all have our many different opinions on this, but to incorporate such a hierarchy into a formal and lasting political agreement is merely to recreate the mythology of “Black and Tan evil, IRA saint-like and suffering”, and thus generate the DNA of further troubles.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Adams is basically advocating “One rule for our Provies, but another one for the Brits”…

  • Richard Dowling

    Well said, Kevin.

    What could be added is that the IRA always pretended to
    play by the rules of war (though they usually went after very
    soft targets). And they expected others to respond as if
    engaging in peacetime parlour games without material,
    political or moral import.

  • Butterknife

    Maybe i missed it but what are the UDA etc figures? Will the OTR legislation include this racial group?

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Butterknife,
    Racial group? Did you mean to say “racist group”?

  • Concerned Loyalist

    If so, please present instances of racist attacks sanctioned by UDA Commanders and carried out by volunteers…looking forward to hearing this!

  • Terry Doherty

    Outstanding piece of writing. Such an exhaustive breakdown and not one mention of the role of Special Forces in organising, arming and directing Unionist death squads.

  • I visited this issue on El Blogador some weeks back. Not that religion should come into it, but as the self-styled defenders of catholics in the north, the PIRA killed more catholics than the UVF; they killed more catholics than the UDA/UFF; they killed more catholics than the RUC; they killed more catholics than the British Army.

    A death is a death, no matter who perpetrated it, and the notion that any killer, whether provo, loyalist, or state, should get off without being held to account for their actions, is repulsive and unacceptable to anyone who supports truth and justice.

    The law should apply equally to everyone- i.e. anyone who killed should face trial.

  • Butterknife

    When i wrote that i was thinking about the The Race Relations Act 1976 and how it implies that white Irish and white British persons as ‘racial groups’ < - sorry legal nerd. But i would also agree with your comment Concerned Loyalist.

  • seabhac siulach

    Mere sophistry from the master of that black art…

    It is mere dishonesty to start quoting statistics of this much dead on one side or the other, etc. The IRA were engaged in a guerilla war against state security forces. What was the state’s excuse? Was it also engaged in some sort of grubby guerilla war against its very own civilians? Was it lowered to the same rank as the very ‘terrorists’ it was fighting? If so, it was breaking all the human rights conventions that it has signed. Are we to pretend that this is unimportant?

    You cannot compare those killings carried out on the part of the state (and I do not include within this those killings by British soldiers under combat conditions) and those carried out by what is considered by Mr. Myer’s to be a ‘terrorist’ organisation. The state cannot go around, using the huge resources of the state, to murder its own citizens for political purposes. This is not a party political issue, by the way. It is wider than Sinn Fein and Mr. Adams. The fact is that the state has higher responsibilities to its citizens. It does not matter whether those state killings were done in response to IRA actions. The state should be the upholder of human rights and the law. In these cases of collusion (if true) the state has conveniently binned all human rights laws and just gunned down (through proxies and otherwise) unarmed, in the main, civilians. Are we in Alice In Wonderland? Is the state really to be compared with a guerilla organisation? The IRA, by the way, has acknowledged in practically every case that it was the party responsible for some truly horrible acts of violence. It, and its members, have admitted responsibility for those acts and everyone knows that they were the authors of the crimes. The victims and their families at least have the meagre comfort of that knowledge. Can we say the same for those crimes carried out by the forces acting in collusion with the British govt.? Do we know if the British govt, at its very highest levels, gave the authorisation for the assassination of unarmed civilians, e.g., Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson. No. And to add insult to injury there is a concerted attempt to block this information coming out. The families in these cases do not have closure as they do not even know , in many cases, who really ordered the killing of their family members.

    It doesn’t matter what political side you are on, it must be admitted (honestly) that state crime is not on the same level as ‘terrorist’ crime. That is the point at issue here…not whether the IRA were the most efficient killers, which is irrelevant.

  • BogExile

    Nice one Terry – if in doubt get the spooks out of the wardrobe.

    That was a superb piece by Kevin Myers – all except the last paragraph.

    There must be a proper meaningful legal process for OTRs in order for victims to make sense of their loss and so that we can collectively move on and let the weeping sore of the trobles scab over and heal. New Labour’s proposed perversion of justice wouldn’t stand up to public scrutiny anywhere else in the civilised world except in this post-conflict appeasement laboratory where anything goes as long as Canary Wharf is left alone.

    By the same token, members of the security forces must be held accountable in a proper court for any crimes committed during the troubles. Rather than some grubby and expedient equivalence, the distinction netween them and terrorists actually reinforces the difference between arbitrary executioners hiding in hedges and the forces of law and order who are accountable to the law.

  • Butterknife

    otally agree Terry Doherty. Next time Sinn Fein condones the IRA i demand he be prosecuted under the above legislation and the new terrorism act. Does he still support the proposition that the IRA is the rightful Army of the Republic and not the Army formed by lawful means?

  • TAFKABO

    Surely the states greatest responsibility is to uphold and secure the existance of the state itself?
    The state has every right to carry out a war against those who would seek to destroy the state, and the facts are that in order to effectively combat those who sought to destroy the state, the state forces infiltrated both loyalist and republican groups, and this meant having agents who were active in those groups.

    It was a dirty war and the state got its hands dirty the same as everyone else, but ultimately the defeat of armed repubicanism means the ends have justified the means.
    What is happening now is that those defeated are left srabbling around for scraps of consolation in the form of petty vendettas against the very state that is being magnanimous in granting them amnesties.

    Republicans ought to realise how lucky they have been and settle for what they have.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Butterknife,
    You agree with me when I implyed that the UDA is not a racist organisation?

  • Although I don’t support Sinn Fein and believe that there has to be a parity of systems for people on all sides in order for reconciliation processes to be effective there is a difference between a provisional organisation (of any colour) killing someone and a state killing someone. Whatever about the State killing people in defence of the State, which is excusable provided all reasonable steps were taken to minimise harm, where the State colludes with provisional organisations to aid them in killing people there is a case of provisional activity with state support, which are in many ways quite different.

    I tend to believe, as I wrote on Mental Meanderings, that there such be something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where all of these cases are treated with an amnesty but where the truth of activities are revealed.

  • seabhac siulach

    Tafkabo:

    “Surely the states greatest responsibility is to uphold and secure the existance of the state itself?
    The state has every right to carry out a war against those who would seek to destroy the state…”

    Yes, but only within international law. Otherwise, the state is merely another ‘terrorist’. The state should not and does not need to resort to tactics that sully the very principles they are supposed to uphold. It is blatant hypocrisy, at the very least, to carry out these actions and then to appear to be on the side of the angels. Okay, if the state had to resort to those measures, let them admit it? If that is the truth, and they had to resort to dirty tactics, then they should stand up and be openly judged for it in the court of international opinion. We are told that we need to look to the future. Well, then, part of that is for all sides to admit their guilt. We are still waiting for that admission from one very important side…
    Such an admission is necessary for closure.
    Why is it that the British government should be the only one that can act as if it has clean hands (when it quite patently does not)?

    “Republicans ought to realise how lucky they have been and settle for what they have.”
    As I said, it is not just a matter for republicans. It is a matter for all citizens who are interested in the rule of law. Unionists might also have qualms about a state that can play fast and loose with the law when it suits them. Perhaps they will be its next victims? Who knows…

  • canwebanulstermanplease

    i think shoukri brothers aren’t racist but of many of the others i’m not so sure.
    although i am pretty sure that the UDA would deny any offically sanctioned racism.

  • Butterknife

    Its horses for courses Concerned Loyalist. I can agree with you and Terry Doherty. The greater the volume of apples you have in a barrel the greater the probability you have of there being a bad one. Even an apple at the bottom of the barrel has a greater chance of going bad due to the others on top of it…

    A member of the UDA or IRA who deals in drugs, tortures or kills people etc can not be tarred with the same brush of a member who joined for a nobler reason if this reason is subjective. This could include the Orange Order etc.

  • Mike

    seabhac siulach

    “The IRA, by the way, has acknowledged in practically every case that it was the party responsible for some truly horrible acts of violence. It, and its members, have admitted responsibility for those acts and everyone knows that they were the authors of the crimes.”

    Actually, the Provos only admit to killing civilans “by accident”. While at the same time the Balcombe Street Gang are cheered to the rafters by Sinn Féin at the 1998 ard fheis. The same Balcombe Street Gang who threw bombs into restuarants and murdered innocent civilians simply because they were British. SS, since you say the PIRA weren’t terrorists, maybe you could tell me the moral or tactical difference (other than suicide) between the 7/7 bombers and Hugh Doherty and friends.

    Excellent article by Myers. It highlights the sheer bare-faced hypocrisy of Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin. IRA terrorists who murdered innocent people at Loughgall, Teebane, Claudy etc should be allowed to get off scot free – the British state should pardon these terrorists who failed to overthrow that very same state by bombing and murder. But members of the state’s security forces should be procesuted by that state.

    It’s in keeping with the delusional republican doublethink that existed during the Troubles and since. When they, murdered Edgar Graham because he was a Unionist elected representative, murdered people in cold blood for their political opinion, or for selling fruit to the police, etc etc, or murdered police officers on their dooresteps in front of their family, this wasn’t murder. Oh no. It might look exactly like murder but apparently it was a ‘war’. All Perfectly legitimate, apparently. But when the other side in this ‘war’, on the comparitively rare occasnios they did shoot back, shot dead IRA members, for example at Loughgall when they thwrted an IRA attack, republicans cried foul, how dare they, we demand an inquiry, why weren’t out, you didn’t need to shoot them, just because they were trying to kill you. Gerry Adams, having protested that Enniskillen, Warrington, Teebane etc, cold-blooded murderous attacks on innocent unarmed people, weren’t murder, but used the word murder to describe Loughgall, and plenty of other occasions when IRA terrorists got what they wanted to dish out to other people.

    So this bare-faced hypocrisy is nothing new. Provisional republicanism is based on an extreme version of doublethink that requires all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify.

  • DerryTerry

    El Matador, if you sincerely believe that a death is a death and their should be no difference, will you be criticising Mark Durkan’s efforts to have OTR legislation that excludes state forces. Surely it wouldn’t be right for terrorists to get away with it and soldiers, policemen and spooks to be imprisoned?

    Bogexile, so there were no spooks organising, arming and directing Unionist death squads? Brian Nelson didn’t exist and the Stormontgate 3 have just been convicted?

  • TAFKABO

    It is blatant hypocrisy, at the very least, to carry out these actions and then to appear to be on the side of the angels. Okay, if the state had to resort to those measures, let them admit it? If that is the truth, and they had to resort to dirty tactics, then they should stand up and be openly judged for it in the court of international opinion.

    seabhac siulach

    I’m in agreement with you on this one.My biggest problem with the States actions is that they never admit that they do such things.

  • BogExile

    ‘Unionists might also have qualms about a state that can play fast and loose with the law when it suits them.’

    SS Absolutely right, the perversion of natural justice in the OTR legislation that is masquerading as ‘due legal process’ being a stunning case in point.

  • JV, read the rules of engagement for the site. I’m pulling your post as a continuous attack on another poster.

    TD, have you got numbers for that category? It really makes the argument more crisp if people can use verfiable data to back their assertions.

  • Betty Boo

    “So this bare-faced hypocrisy is nothing new.”
    And you have it coming from all sides as if flood gates opened.

    Since history is always written by the victor, all we witness now is the fight for the pen since no victory has been officially claimed.
    And from what I have read so far, this is exactly what it is: Who will be writing this chapter of history?

  • Mike

    DerryTerry

    “Unionist death squads”

    Maybe I’m judging you in particular wrongly here but to me use of this sort of language is generally very revealing.

    The UDA, UVF etc were always ‘loyalist paramilitaries’ throghout the Troubles and right up to around 2001/02.

    Then with the UUP demanding, not unreasonably, that the ‘Republican Movement’ start to give up the guns of its paramilitary end before its political end could get into government, Sinn Féin adopted the term ‘Unionist paramilitaries’ It was a spurious attempt to draw a parallel by saying “they say republican guns have to be given up before republicans can go into government, yet they’re Unionists and there are Unionist guns too”. So I find the use of ‘Unionist paramilitaries’ rather than ‘loyalist’ pretty refvealing – especially as is nearly always the case the person would not dream of referring to ‘Nationalist paramilitaries’.

    Again, the ‘death squads’ bit – now you’ll have no problem from me on saying the UDA and UVF, like the IRA and INLA, consisted of death squads. But the term ‘loyalist death squads’ (note ‘loyalist’ – they hadn’t yet decided to replace this the term ‘Unionist’ in official provo-speak) was part of the republican lexicon during the Troubles – I would think in an attempt to draw a parallel with right-wing death squads in certain Latin American countires which were to varying extents state-sponsored. Again what’s particularly revealing to me is that someone who speaks of ‘loyalist death squads’ (or the newer ‘Unionist death squads’) will scarecely-to-never be heard saying ‘republican death squads’ or ‘IRA death squads’ (never mind ‘nationalist death squads’).

  • BogExile

    ‘Who will be writing this chapter of history?’

    One thing is for sure, the innocent victims of terrorism won’t warrant any m,ore than a grubby little footnote as ‘collateral damage’ on the road to reconcilliation. It makes me want to puke but I’m beginning to think there must be some method behind this madness. Is it totally beyond the bounds of possibility that unionism is being provoked by one outrageous concession after another with the eventual aim of alienating them so much from the british state that unification becomes the least worst option?

    Or do i need more tablets?

  • crow

    Who says that the states hands are not completely clean.Maybe they are.Maybe they feel they have nothing to prove.The odd bad apple does not mean it is the states fault.One thing is certain that the IRA hands are not just dirty they are dripping.

  • seabhac siulach

    BogExile:

    “…outrageous concession after another with the eventual aim of alienating them so much from the british state…”

    Well, if a state was willing to do this to its own beloved breathren then perhaps you would be better off in a unified Ireland (that is, if those in the South will have you either. Doubtful). Ever feel unloved?

    By the way, these are not ‘concessions’, the OTRs will be just like other ‘prisoners’ released under the GFA. That is, out on licence. Some concession. Where is the pain for the Unionist community at large?
    By the way, Unionism has not had to concede anything tangible (yet) in terms of its constitutional apsirations…unlike the other side, so all this talk of concessions is laughable. Is the disbanding of the RIR batallions , etc., a concession? Hardly, the Brit. Govt. will just not continue to pay the wages of unnecessary soldiers, police, etc.

  • NorthernFF

    SS:

    “it must be admitted (honestly) that state crime is not on the same level as ‘terrorist’ crime”

    A fair enough point in isolation. Except of course you were using it to criticise Kevin Myers’ point that the Provos are murderous hypcrites when he compared their total slaughter to that of the Brits.

    The problem with your analysis is that the Provisional Movement rejects utterly the ‘terrorist’ label. Indeed, it claims to hold the true national authority.

    Which would, on one reading, make them the de facto State killers.

    In another sense, I am inclined to agree with at least a face value reading of your statement: State crime was very seldom on the same level as terrorist crime.

    I don’t recall the Brits kidnapping Catholic families and forcing the fathers of those families to either drive suicide bombs into RUC barracks or force the execution of their wives and children.

    I’m just saying.

  • Paul

    Language reveals a lot, for Reps. Loyalist murderers are Loyalist Death Squads, their murderers are Active Service Units. There is a psychological need to distance yourself from immoral, indefensible acts so euphenisms are used.

  • aquifer

    Great stuff Kevin Myers. When you get sick of the clouds of bad gas coming out the Shinners just at those numbers again.

  • El Matador

    “I visited this issue on El Blogador some weeks back. Not that religion should come into it, but as the self-styled defenders of catholics in the north, the PIRA killed more catholics than the UVF; they killed more catholics than the UDA/UFF; they killed more catholics than the RUC; they killed more catholics than the British Army.

    A death is a death, no matter who perpetrated it, and the notion that any killer, whether provo, loyalist, or state, should get off without being held to account for their actions, is repulsive and unacceptable to anyone who supports truth and justice.

    The law should apply equally to everyone- i.e. anyone who killed should face trial. ”

    Totally agree!

  • aquifer

    The numbers say it all.

    Never mind the clouds of dark green confetti being thrown up.

  • Henry94

    TAFKABO

    It was a dirty war and the state got its hands dirty the same as everyone else

    We need to know what that involved exactly. Did it mean murdering lawyers, shoot-to-kill policies, torture.

    If as you appear to believe the war is over then we must be told what lengths the state went to, at what level the decisions were taken and who knew about it.

    We are entitled to know.

  • Ringo

    Henry,

    on the same level, aren’t we entitled to know who moved the pieces on the IRA side of the chessboard – seeing as many republicans are, and will be playing an equally important role in the running of the North and the Republic?

    Gerry Adams’ denials of ever been a member of the IRA make a mockery of the demands by republicans for the ‘truth’.

  • DerryTerry

    I have been trying to get a straight answer from any one of the SDLP cheerleaders on the topic of the OTRs for the past few days.

    In May 2003 Mark Durkan acknowledged an anomaly existed regarding OTRs in light of the prison release programme.

    In November 2004 he accepted that no one would be going to jail.

    This week in the Newsletter he stated that state forces were not included in any OTR scheme and that they should not be included in any OTR scheme.

    So where does the SDLP stand? Do they now oppose any OTR legislation full stop? Do they oppose any OTR legislation that will result in people spending time in jail or do they just oppose any inclusion of state forces, effectively making a difference between terrorists and state forces?

  • seabhac siulach

    Northern FF: (is this not the SDLP? Or is it the SDLP with the addition of money ‘donations’ in brown paper bags?)

    “The problem with your analysis is that the Provisional Movement rejects utterly the ‘terrorist’ label. Indeed, it claims to hold the true national authority.
    Which would, on one reading, make them the de facto State killers.”

    Yes, perhaps, in that sense, for the Provisional movement to differentiate themselves from the British Govt. is not reasonable.
    However, this ‘hypocrisy’ is really only valid for those who belong/belonged to the Provisional movement.
    For the rest of the population, including the many families of victims who were killed by state forces, then the differentiation does make sense.
    Many of these victims had no connection whatsoever with paramilitary groups. Therefore, for the state that they belonged to (under international law), to set up units, etc., to terrorise and murder them is outrageous and contravenes all human rights legislation. It matters little then what self-definition the Provos gave themselves (or whether they were a de-jure government). Sinn Fein are entitled now (once the shooting has stopped) to defend those who never bought into the whole idea that the provos were the de-jure government. They are no entitled to represent those people. I can see that this is a subtle point.

    “I don’t recall the Brits kidnapping Catholic families and forcing the fathers of those families to either drive suicide bombs into RUC barracks or force the execution of their wives and children.”

    I will not defend those actions. Actions, in fact, that in Derry led to the ceasefire. In terms of numbers killed, however, the Brits might be responsible for more deaths…e.g., they arranged, through collusion, for weapons shipments (allegedly) to reach loyalist groups. Weapons that were then used to kill hundreds of completely innocent people. They might also have been responsible for the no warning bombs in Dublin/Monaghan, etc. These comparisons, in any case, are futile and beside the main point I was making.

    Bertie:

    “the PIRA killed more catholics than the UVF; they killed more catholics than the UDA/UFF; they killed more catholics than the RUC; they killed more catholics than the British Army.”

    I am sorry but that is not the case. The IRA kille d 381 catholics (24.7% of their total killings) while loyalists groups killed 735 (74.8%) of their
    killings. The combined British Army, UDR and the RUC were responsible for 316 catholic deaths. Not a small number and equivalent to the number of deaths attributed to the IRA. To talk in terms of catholics, in any case, is misleading, as many catholics were members of the ‘security’ forces and died therefore as members of the army, RUC, etc. in IRA attacks.

    I also add that 858 out of the 983 (i.e., 87%) loyalist killings were of civilians. The equivalent number for the IRA is 35%. I am not justifying any of these deaths, merely wishing to set the record straight.

  • Jo

    “The law should apply equally to everyone- i.e. anyone who killed should face trial”

    Of course, but lets get real. IRA men have done time concomitant wth their crimes, some have not. NO member of the Army has done time relating to the seriousness of their less frequent criminal activity. Lets acknowledge that.

  • seabhac siulach

    So, it seems that the Stoops now believe that there was no secret Sinn Fein-Brit. Govt. deal on the OTRs.
    What a surprise.

    See
    http://dailyireland.televisual.co.uk/home.tvt?_scope=DailyIreland/Content/Comment&id=16579&opp=1

    It was a scurrilous piece of politics by the SDLP. I notice that the statement by Durkan has been given little coverage…all the public will remember are their mendacious attacks on Sinn Fein…dirty, dirty politics…

  • Mike

    “The SDLP’s attack on Sinn Féin was aimed at relatives of victims of state and loyalist violence angry at the news that those who killed their loved ones would be able to evade exposure and justice”

    What sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander Danny old son.

    Republicans demand an amnesty for IRA terrorists, forcing relatives of victims of republican violence into the situation where those who killed their loved ones are able to face exposure and justice.

    But of course that’s a totally one sided demand.

    So much for the ‘Ireland of Equals’, so much for ‘no heirarchy of victims’, Danny boy.

  • Mike

    By the way, the latest position of Mark Durkan and the SDLP is disgraceful.

    Now they’re prepared to accept IRA terrorists getting away with murder, but want the security forces and loyalist terrorists pursued.

    They appear to be learning from Sinn Fein in the hypocrisy stakes.