New collusion lead for historic inquires

Guardian correspondent Owen Boycott reports that the Historic Enquiries Team has uncovered evidence of another two collusion cases from the early 70s. It isn’t revealed what these relate to but Phil James deputy director of the HET says it will take to 2013 before every case has been reviewed, two years later than the target date. The HET have certainly made an impact, for instance uncovering more about loyalist terrorism than before. Controversy over the “Glenanne gang “continues but “first enquiries” into these are complete and a more “holistic approach” has been adopted – suggesting perhaps that the Glenanne poison stretched even further beyond Co Armagh than realised already. James also asserts the HET’s continuing independence after whatever overall Truth proposals follow on from the Eames/Bradley final report due out before the end of the year. Will the HETs work increase public confidence or raise further suspicions? Much depends on whether people, suspicious families in particular, are able to match the enquiry team’s impartiality with open minds. What would really make a difference would be if those involved were to come forward and confess under immunity. The problem is the lack of either pressure or incentive to do so.

Pressure for the HET to be more selective in their enquiries has come from the Commons NI Select Committee in a two stage report on the cost of dealing with the past in June and earlier this month. The HET are examining all 3268 deaths in 2516 cases since 1969. From early 2006 when they began work to May this year the HET had opened 1107 cases and completed but not closed 368 cases up to 1973. Clearly at this pace, there’s a lot left to cover and much more time and money will be needed, as the committee report confirms. The total budget of £34 million is likely to be exceeded by £16.77m. James’ comments to the Guardian suggests the team is not about to shift from their case-by-case chronological approach anytime soon.

Families have co-operated with them in 62% of cases, some of them after the HET had begun work. On the question of whether the team is seen to be independent, the select committee and the Chief Constable are not opposed to putting it under the remit of a new independent – and presumably international – body if Eames/Bradley so recommends and the government agrees.

44 cases of alleged police misconduct have been referred to the police ombudsman. Other cases involving the army and paramilitaries are being processed by the HET themselves.

Hugh Orde admits that few prosecutions are likely. Sir Kenneth Bloomfield who compiled a Victims report some years ago told the committee: “For me, there seems something rather perverse about a situation where over a great many years a large number of people were very properly convicted for committing atrocious crimes and then in the context of the political settlement the jails were emptied and they are all out again. For what purpose do we devote quite so much of a resource, human resource and financial resource, to pursuing all of these old cases because clearly what we are not going to do is end up locking more people up”. Quite so.


    Didn’t Lord Eames & Denis Bradley recently advise the Unionist community that they should prepare themselves for some shocking revelations involving collusion between the British State and Loyalists? What we need to be told is whether this was done on a here say, nod and a wink basis or was it more formalised. Undoubtedly various British cabinets knew what was going on but was this an ‘unofficial’ policy? Knew of but denied at the same time? No wonder Britain is pushing through Inquiry Bills and Immunity Certificates as it obviously has a lot to hide. I also think that Nationalists and Republicans should expect more Stakeknife and Denis Donaldson revelations but how high did MI5’s control of the IRA & Sinn Fein go? It WAS a dirty war but when the government breaks the same rules it makes then the Public have a RIGHT & MUST be told.

  • ??

    lets jail everyone who was involved with terrorism during the troubles, lets start with those in government, how about a certain terrorist deputy first minister and work down from there

  • say it ain’t so

    Quite so? Is that it? Quite so?

    Perhaps people who profess to be “decent”, “law-abiding” and supporters of “the rule of law” might be interested in hearing what the “security forces” were getting up to in their name?

    It’s not about convictions – there’s no point in that. It is about truth and justice and finding out what murderous activities, sorry, “alleged police misconduct” the officers of the law were up to.

    If the RUC want to murder people, that’s fine. But they and their apologists shouldn’t complain when the victims want to know who, when, how and why. And how often. When do “a few bad apples” or “a rogue officer” become a campaign of state sponsored murder?

    It’s bad enough to be murdered, but to be murdered by the state and then told that there should be no inquiry because it was ages ago and it’ll be expensive. What sort of rule of law is that?



    Maybe we should start with those involved with Ulster Resistance and work down from there so you would have to go more senior than the deputy first minister. Shouldn’t we be told about the 1000’s of guns that remain hidden in the ‘heartlands of Ulster’ smuggled in by Ulster Resistance……and where are the Red Berets so loved and adored by senior DUP members in the 1980’s? What do you say ?? me old spud, me old mucker? I KNOW you don’t like terrorists in government OR their apologists and cheerleaders! You will be the first to agree won’t you……………well won’t you?

  • “He [the Ombudsman] also suggested that confidence in policing was being eroded, stating that “the past is bleeding into the confidence of this present police organisation” and that “confidence is diminishing in present policing.”” .. HoC report

    Set this alongside the reduction in resources for present policing and complaints and you end up with affirmation of Kevin McAuley’s revelations about the 60% reduction of police officers in Moyle district and the likely closure of police stations in small towns.

  • Ri Na Deise

    And the truth shall set you free….

  • William

    I’m surprised that a seasoned journaist such as BRIAN WALKER has to use the Pat Finucane Centre as a source [Glenanne gang]….not exactly an unbiased source Brian….more the self-styled ‘Uman rites’ wing of Sinn Fein / IRA

  • Dave

    “It’s not about convictions – there’s no point in that.”

    And whose agenda does that serve other than those who don’t want to be held to account for their crimes? Why is the State proffering that agenda through its public servants and minions in the media? Why is the State seeking concessions for the guilty? Does it have anything to do with agencies of the State and its ruling class being among the guilty parties? Why should immunity be required as a condition of solving these murders but not for any of the 766 murders committed in England and Wales in 2005/6?

    Immunity may be a useful (but morally dubious) tool to encourage known guilty parties to implicate others, but is there any evidence to support the assertion that it acts as an incentive to unknown parties to confess? Is there any medical evidence to suggest that anonymous psychopaths who are devoid of conscience by definition somehow recover from their medical condition and develop a conscience when offered immunity as an incentive to confess?

    No, it’s just the guilty parties (Shinners and their puppetmaster, the State) seeking immunity from the legal consequences of their vile sectarian murder campaign and trying to convince you – the public – that it is your best interest, not theirs, that they should be granted such immumity.

  • OC

    Was anybody ever prosecuted for the August 1922 assassination of Michael Collins?

  • Dave

    Yeah, Lee Harvey Oswald. has a few relevant passages on its website:

    [b]Public support for a truth commission[/b]

    [i]Public support for the establishment of a truth commission includes support by broader public, political parties, the political and military elite, and NGOs. The more widespread public support is, the more comprehensive the work of the truth commission can be expected to be. The more limited the support, the harder it will be for the commission to find willing cooperation from the civil society. [/i]

    Presumably the British government knows that if it can undermine public for a truth commission, then that will mimimise the truth-recovery effectiveness of any commission that is established – and may be successful in preventing any such commission (however limited its terms of inquiry) from being established. Conversely, if it wanted truth, then it would promote public support for one via the media – and announce that it will cooperate fully with it by releasing its records to it.

    [b]Extent of dominance and power of perpetrators after transition[/b]

    [i]The continuing power of former perpetrators or endorsers of violence has significant repercussions on the extent of fear or hope in a country in transition. It can also set limits on the scope of the investigation of truth commissions, the cooperation it meets in society and among the state and military agencies, as well as the recommendations the commission will publish. The continued dominance of perpetrators can be low, medium or high, measured by their continued holding of central offices, and their open threats against the commission and its collaborators. A further indicator for the extent of power of former perpetrators is the type of amnesty that is established. The more power former perpetrators continue to hold, the more likely an unconditional, sweeping amnesty will be passed before the old regime leaves office.

    Slight problem here in that “the old regime” hasn’t left office. The British government retains power. In addition, the murder gangs have been invited to share the administration of that power. Since an amnesty serves the purpose of persuading regimes to surrender power more peacefully than they might otherwise do, what possible justification is there for offering an amnesty to a defeated murder gang who never held power?

    [i]Transitions to democracy are rarely possible without some form of amnesty for crimes and human rights violations that the previous regime has perpetrated. Unless the prior regime has suffered devastating defeat at the hands of the democratic forces, the old elite and military are usually in the position to negotiate for amnesty in return for their peaceful retreat from power. Equally, in the context of protracted armed conflict that is ended by negotiations, neither party is likely to completely forego amnesty provisions. Still, amnesties can vary with respect to their timing as well as the conditions attached to it. Whether an amnesty has been declared prior to the establishment of a commission or will be passed after it has finished its work, whether this amnesty is unconditional and effective for all ranks or conditional upon cooperation and selective – these factors provide a frame for the commission’s legitimacy and effectiveness. Without some form of amnesty the commission will probably encounter widespread and serious opposition from the armed forces. With a sweeping, a priori amnesty a commission will probably be seen as a fig leaf with no punitive, and little restorative, power.[/i]

    NI doesn’t meet any of these criteria to merit any form of amnesty being offered to murder gangs. These gangsters are criminals, not generals in regimes.

  • I guess my old age is catching up with me as I have now read this Owen Bowcott article in The Guardian a few times, and I still don’t know which are the two new cases in the early 1970s in which British collusion is suspected.

    Have I simply missed what is clearly there or is it another one of those articles where one is expected to know what happened, and fill in the blanks?

    If it is the latter, I would be thinking about the assassinations of Fine Gael Senator Billy Fox, and the disappearance of poor Danny McElhone whose body, as I recall, was never found.

    Please correct me if I have overlooked something, but if not, what are your suggestions about more collusion murders?

    Is this another case of N. I. investigative journalism in action?

  • cynic

    I agree. Let’s get iot all out in public.

    There were a lot of things going on in the early 1970s that need examination including the “co-operation” (collusion) between the British Army and PIRA in ‘policing’ parts of West Belfast and the consequences of that for some local people who were deemed criminals or hooligans. Strange SF never mention that one.

    Then there was the cover up on the Claudy bombings where, in a deal between the Government and Catholic Church, a local priest was allowed to leave the country rather than be arrested and prosecuted for murder.

    Then of course there will be all the murders carried out by or authorised by some people who are now prominent politicians.

    The truth should be told. All of it.

  • Sorry, I recalled the wrong McElhone – it was Patrick’s murder in Tyrone in 1974 which caused such a stir between the Irish and British governments at the time, and has been recalled recently in the press.

    Seems like the British forces were on a shooting spree in the area at the time.

  • Brian Walker

    William, small point – I didn’t use the Pat Finucane centre as a source of absolute truth but as one of many constituencies calling for satisfaction.

    No reasonable person can be against Truth but the basic questions remain. By airing them I don’t imply that I believe the whole process should be wound up.

    Should the “guilty” be prosecuted? After the 1998 releases, the two year tariff has lapsed even if this is not openly acknowledged. If convicted they will not be sent to prison, so is a verdict without sanction satisfactory?

    So I ask again, what incentive or sanction to promote confession exists?

    “Collusion is worse than the IRA ” waging war” because the power and responsibilties of the State have been seriously abused.” Discuss, endlessly. Fruitfully?

    Assuming parity of disclosure by the paramilitaries is essential ( actually, I’m not sure it is if the files are accessible), how is it to be achieved? As the movements crumble, no collective decision will work. The main political wing is in power already; the political incentive has long gone.

    What’s the next move when the enquiries fail to come up with a clear result or satisfy cherished conspiracy theories? Louder cries of cover-up?

    But rather than say it’s all hopeless, call me naive, I would advocate a bold policy of official disclosure combined with immunity in selected cause celebres. The trouble with that is, the clearer the account, the closer you get to names. And the days have gone when you can offer immunity for confession. Arguably, that should have happened in 98, alongside disarmament in exchange for release. But then, would we ever have got a deal along those lines?

    I suspect everybody will have to settle for modest results dripping out through the HETs and the present Cory enquiries. Some compromised individuals may feel an urge to confess to a truth commission but I’d guess they’ll be few.

    In the end, I would say that a reasonably clear account of the extent of collusion and the handling of informants is achievable. All sides in the “war” would suffer embarrassment and criticism. This is probably best done by a panel of experts supervised by a collective body of interested parties under agreed rules. It would be good if the Assembly was up to the task.

  • dundela1

    Having lived through the Civil War I am not surprised at all that there was collusion these things need to be exposed so we can see how bad it was and get over it.

    Surly the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) should mutate into that Body it spends most of its time dealing with the aftermath of the civil war.

    NIHRC does precious little to defend other Human rights just look at their last annual report 3 cases high lighted one about how long a boys hair should be and another about what to do about fly tipping.

  • “I would advocate a bold policy of official disclosure”

    Brian, I think you’ll find that London and Dublin have the hatches well battened down on this one. They may throw a few scapegoats to the newspaper hounds.

  • Brian Walker

    I’ve just noticed a howler in my earlier text.

    “But rather than say it’s all hopeless, call me naive, I would advocate a bold policy of official disclosure combined WITH IMMUNITY in selected cause celebres. The trouble with that is, the clearer the account, the closer you get to names. And THE DAYS HAVE GONE WHEN YOU CAN OFFER IMMUNITY for confession.”

    Terrible proof reading, sorry. What I mean to say is that the authorities would offer case by case immunity because they won’t admit a de facto amnesty is in force.

    Nevin, both governments have “battened down the hatches?” Up to now, that’s sometimes what it looks like. But don’t completely dismiss the degree of openness actually achieved; Bloody Sunday inquiry, the Cory inquiries albeit minus Finucane, the HET itself. Far from “scraps”, when the outcomes are uncontrollable. It’s a mistake to pocket the limited degree of openness and then carry on slamming regardless.

    As the campaigns fade into the past and the need of “national security” change, official positions can change too. They have to confront head on, not the deep and ineradicable paranoia of a quite a few but the reasonable suspicions of the many. Within government the instinct for secrecy and the ideals of disclosure are constantly at odds. There are risks to government if they raise hopes for a truth process and proceed to dash them themselves. At this distance, secrecy has to be justified.

  • susan

    It encourages me that some of the investigators have experience in Bosnia. It may sound trite, but I still believe the best way to deliver the future and those who will live in it from the snakepit of the past is to expose as much of the terror and the mendacity and the lying and the institutionalised brutality to the light of day as can humanly be done. It’s still important to bear witness.

  • Earnan

    The truth is the security forces weren’t any better than the PIRA. The only difference was that they were on the side of the state and the PIRA were fighting to bring down the state.

    A dirty war if I have ever seen one.

    How many years have to pass where the hatred in this province will simmer to the piont where people can work together in gov’t rationally (assuming they want to, of course)?

  • OC

    When the “Provisionals”, whether SF or IRA, formed, was the implication that they were forming a “new” government?

  • OC

    “Yeah, Lee Harvey Oswald.”

    Posted by Dave on Oct 28, 2008 @ 06:33 AM

    Nope, sorry Dave. Lee Harvey Oswald was born October 18, 1939.

    Perhaps no one in the IFS/RoI cared who murdered arguably their greatest hero.

  • Since my attempt to get posters to talk about what two new cases of British collusion in murders the HET is talking about during the early 1970s has gotten nowhere, not even the apparent fact that Owen Bowcott is not allowed to mention their names – what I hoped to elicit by my false claims about what happened to Danny and Patrick McElhone – I shall have to do so myself.

    The two cases might be the assassinations of Fine Gael Senator Billy Fox and SDLP Senator Paddy Wilson. The first by British securocrats getting Republicans of one sort or another to do it on March 11,1974 in a farm house near Clones, County Monaghan, and the second by Davy Payne’s UDA gang on June 30, 1973 – who stabbed Wilson 30 times, and Ms. Irene Andrdews 20, and then slit both their throats.

    Captain Fred Holroyd has talked extensifly about similar efforts in the Republic by British forces in the Republic, and Peter Harclerode wrote in Secret Soldiers about the Mobile Reconnaissance Force unit claiming that Paddy Wilson had talked about it after a visit to its Gemini Health Studio massage parlour about the Provos killing the three members of the lst Battalion Royal Highland Fusiliers on March 11, 1971. (p. 317)

    Now why would the MRF make up such a outrageous story about Paddy Wilson so that the UDA would kill him and Ms. Andrews so brutally?

    Any serious investigation of the murders of the two Senators could blow Britain’s dirty war during The Troubles sky high!

    And there was no collusion in the Patrick McElhone murder. The Paras, as I recall, simply shot him dead, and told his grieving mother to SFFU or they would kill her too!