SLUGGER editor Mick Fealty interprets some of our online debate over recent revelations on security force/ loyalist collusion in today’s Irish News. Non-subscribers can read the whole article below (hope the IN doesn’t mind too much!) and it’s interesting to note Stephen McCaffrey’s point on who carried reports on the Irish News’s excellent coverage – a significant story worthy of follow-up – and who only paid it no more than lip service. On the issue of collusion coverage, Patricia McKenna lamented in Daily Ireland:
“I expected a massive outcry in Dáil Eireann with politicians calling the British government to account. I also expected that our state broadcaster, RTE, would have this as the top story of the day with extensive coverage devoted to the issue on all our national stations.
Astonishingly this story, one of the biggest scandals to hit these islands in recent years, confirming that the British government was aware of large-scale collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries from as early as 1973, did not even merit a mention on our main radio or TV stations. [Ed’s note: RTE’s This Week was reported to have covered the story.]
Furthermore, the silence from the government and main political parties in Dáil Eireann was deafening.
Why has the exposure of this outrageous scandal merited so little attention and why is it being ignored by so many.
Our national media consider items such as the birth of actor Tom Cruise’s baby worthy of primetime news space but almost ignores a real national public security issue touching the lives of so many Irish people. Our politicians and government ministers who are constitutionally obliged to protect our interests and our wellbeing seem to turn a blind eye to the whole affair.
However, a quick search under ‘UDR collusion’ on the Daily Ireland website revealed a grand total of zero other references to the latest revelations on collusion. Did they appear in print?
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From the Irish News:
THE emergence of the first documented evidence of large scale collusion and government knowledge of it, represented “final proof” for nationalists of a long-standing grievance, according to one media observer.
As the story unfolded it sparked a lengthy debate on the north’s leading internet platform for political discussion. Mick Fealty, editor of the Slugger O’Toole site said the publication of the documents saw contributors post more than 250 comments within two days.
The Slugger debate, he said, seemed particularly important to nationalists.
He noted how some sought to use the new information as a “silver bullet” – using it to support a range of nationalist theories over the troubles – but he pointed to one contribution that summed-up the wider nationalist reaction.
“It went along the lines of saying, some nationalists thought they were going insane, because it was never conclusively confirmed that there had been this kind of dual membership going on between the UDR and loyalist paramilitaries,” he said.
“But finally now they had got official confirmation of what they had known, but which was being officially denied.
“There is a sense that for this longterm grievance, finally they have proof, not only that the British government now know about it, but that it knew about it back then. And we are talking about the times of the Miami Showband and so on.”
The Irish News had exclusive access to the documents and carried a series of detailed reports across two days of special coverage.
The publication of the documents sparked a dispute over their contents, with Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the DUP and Ulster Unionist Party clashing over the issue.
Victims’ groups representing those bereaved by loyalists and security forces said that after years of campaigning on individual cases they were shocked at the “revelations”, adding that the arming of loyalists “has now been acknowledged in official documents”.
Among the groups to speak out were the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten, who discovered the documents buried among public records office files, and who have since passed them to the police Historic Enquiries Team.
After the first day of Irish News coverage the story was taken up by the Press Association (PA) news agency.
Its stories are fed to media outlets throughout Ireland and Britain.
The PA story was carried by The Belfast Telegraph, UTV online, The Examiner, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express. The Guardian, The Irish Times, The News Letter and The Sunday Business Post all wrote their own follow-up stories.
RTE reported on the emergence of the documents in their in-depth news programme, This Week.
BBC Northern Ireland did not carry any news coverage on the emergence of the documents. A BBC spokesman said, however, that The Irish News reports were mentioned in Radio Ulster’s early morning newspaper review.