The section of the Eames-Bradley report dealing with collusion begins with a faint echo of British government policy from the seventies and eighties when the decision was made to take Army personnel out of the firing line and put locally recruited police and UDR in. In this case, they refer to what is allegedly and inversion of that policy, but one in which Army and MI5 are protected from further investigation, whilst their local counterparts (uniquely amongst all ‘former combatants’) are left on the legal rack. In the section the authors call Ulsterisation of the Blame they note:
Former members of the security forces and their families expressed anger arising from their belief that they are now being made scapegoats for the actions of others, when they simply did what duty required during the conflict.
Some went so far as to describe this as the Ulsterisation of the blame. Some former members of the RUC and UDR/R IRISH (HS) believe that the British Government is trying to put the blame for alleged collusion on them and will not allow those allegations to be directed at other agencies such as the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Security Services.
For many within the local security forces there is a deep and real feeling of being as much victims of the conlict as those traditionally thought of in that category. There is also resentment that Public Inquiries and examinations of the past appear to accept that blame must inevitably fall on them.
The ‘them’ referred to here stands for state actors, as opposed to non state actors. This section focuses solely on the state’s role as opposed to, say, a range of collusive activities of individuals in public or private positions of influence may or may not have played with paramilitary/terrorist organisations.
The sole focus on state collusion is one of the driving factors behind a lot of unionist criticism of the report. Ironicially it is also the group’s recommendation that has brought the most focused criticism from Republicans too. Under these headings, the group recommends:
…there remain serious questions to be answered concerning allegations of collusion. The Group does not think that these are best explored through normal judicial processes. Rather, they would be best examined under procedures designed specifically for the purposes of information recovery and reconciliation.
Let us have your thoughts and criticisms of the Group’s recommendations on collusion here!
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