Jack Hermon dies

Sir Jack Hermon who died suffering from Alzheimer’s for many years was the longest serving and the first modern professional native-born chief of the RUC of the Troubles, as successor to the Met policeman Sir Kenneth Newman, later to be Met Commissioner. Earlier old school Ulster-born chiefs were clearly subordinate to the army’s GOC of the day, even though the policy of “primacy of the police” nominally began in the mid seventies. No doubt Sir Jack’s critics have other descriptions of him.The RUC’s progressively greater role put them literally more in the firing line. The dossier of “shoot to kill” allegations compiled by deputy chief of Great Manchester John Stalker remains unopened and the collusion charges over the Finucane and other murders remain in limbo. No balanced account of the RUC’s role and of Jack Hermon’s leadership will be possible without greater disclosure. My impression of him was that that he always kept a tight command and there was no question of his not being briefed, like Sir Ian Blair over the de Menezes shooting.

This was an era of relentless conflict, only a little less grim than the previous decade, beginning with the hunger strike aftermath in 81, the Droppin’ Well bomb in 82, the Loughgall killings of 8 IRA men, the Enniskillen bomb which killed 11, 8 soldiers blown up outside Ballygawley in 87, to instance only a few of the biggest death tolls. The overall tally must include the local backwash of the IRA’s English campaign, from the Regent Park and Brighton bombs of 82, to the horrific cycle of death beginning with the SAS “Death on the Rock” killings of 3 in Gibraltar in 1988, followed by the Michael Stone graveside attack and the subsequent lynching of the two incognito solders following the second highly charged funeral procession to Milltown cemetery in a week.