On Nationalism’s towering hypocrisy concerning the past…

Davy Adams noted in the Irish Times (subs needed) the indignation expressed last week against Ronnie Flanagan. He finds widespread calls for Flanangan’s resignation from Britain’s Inspectorate of Constabulary since he is reported to have co-operated fully with the Office of the Police Ombudsman. He notes that these calls come within the context of a Peace Process(™?), aimed at bringing a previously ruthless killing machine to accept peaceful means (in part at least) by the inclusion of individuals (formerly) of the top and middle ranks of the IRA in ministerial positions.By Davy Adams

The SDLP has publicly boasted in a newspaper advertisement of how they were responsible for Orde getting his job. They say they used their position on the policing board to make certain that no ex-RUC member was appointed following the retirement of the previous chief constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

How’s that for a party that prides itself on its role in delivering civil rights and equal opportunity for all and which constantly demands that policing and justice be beyond political interference?

Because of his previous position, and in light of the Police Ombudsman’s report into collusion, both Sinn Féin and the SDLP are now demanding that Sir Ronnie Flanagan be dismissed from his current post as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Despite the ombudsman stating that Flanagan co-operated with her during the inquiry and no allegations of personal wrongdoing having been levelled against him, they insist that his previous job renders him unfit for public office.

This is particularly rich coming from Sinn Féin, which is about to claim ministerial positions in a devolved administration in Northern Ireland.

If Flanagan is unfit for public office because of what he did previously, then, by the same criteria, how much more so are some of those trying to drum him out of his job?

However, a broader problem involving the role of the Police Ombudsman and the double standards of these political parties goes way beyond the recent report into collusion.

For years now, nationalists and republicans have told unionists that we all need to “put the past behind us” for the sake of the peace process.

This sounds reasonable enough.

It hardly takes an expert in conflict resolution to realise that if you keep raking over the past and revisiting old grievances then you run a real risk of reigniting the conflict. Self-evidently, you would imagine, this should apply to all sides.

Part of the current problem in Northern Ireland is that it doesn’t. And, bizarrely, it is the very people who have been doing the lecturing – and are still demanding that unionists be prepared to leave the past behind – who seem determined to revisit real and imagined grievances at every opportunity.

It appears to unionists that what nationalists and republicans are actually demanding is that the history of the IRA be ignored, but no one else’s.

The Police Ombudsman’s office, we were led to believe, was established to monitor the PSNI and investigate complaints against the new police service made by members of the public.

Instead, it seems to have morphed into a kind of mini-truth commission.

This role would be perfectly acceptable if, upon first agreeing that we needed a truth commission, it were only one of a number of such bodies that, between them, were charged with examining all aspects of the conflict.

But that is not the case. What we have is a situation where only the past actions of the police are scrutinised but everyone else gets off scot-free.

Well, it actually amounts to a lot more than that. The relatives of every nationalist person killed or injured during the past 40 years – except, of course, those murdered by republicans – can command a full investigation and detailed report from the ombudsman simply by claiming that they suspect there was police collusion with loyalists.

The mainly, but not exclusively, unionist victims of the IRA have no such avenue to the truth about who killed their loved ones.

They are left to watch, in silence, as some of the authors of their misfortune revel in their exemption from scrutiny. Throughout last week, the people of Northern Ireland were treated to the daily spectacle of Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and various party apparatchiks lecturing them on human rights violations by the police.

While republicans castigated the police on its past record, their own infinitely more gruesome history was ignored by everyone except the community that suffered most at their hands.

Not once did any member of an embarrassingly acquiescent media feel it necessary to challenge the blatant hypocrisy on display.

For journalists to play along with drawing a line under the past is one thing. It is quite another to sit mute while taking lectures on human rights abuse from the previous leaders of an organisation that committed countless acts of terror, including mass murder.

Republicans cannot have it both ways.

If they insist on preaching about the past crimes of others, then they should be asked hard questions about IRA atrocities.

© 2007 The Irish Times

In terms of his point on the media’s general passivity in the face of a singular nationalist spin of past history, he may have missed Vincent Browne taking Arthur Morgan to pieces [thirty minutes in] for his use of the phrase Human Rights abusers in relation to the RUC).

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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