Time to expose collusion

Rather late in the day, the Indy is carrying David McKittrick’s obituary for Judge Henry Barron who in 1999 carried out the first inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. The familiar suspicions of British security forces collusion at official level with loyalist paramilitaries and southern government cover up carry weight on account of David’s authority as one of the most scrupulous and detailed reporters of the long war. The Wiki version also gives a fair account of collusion claims beyond the bombings. I can just about understand that disclosure of the tangled webs of collusion might have had a disastrously destabilising effect in two periods: one, at times when the security forces seemed to be losing all control; and two, when disclosure might have dragged the peace process down, as it was important that the various parties overlooked the worst of their records for the purpose of reaching agreement. But now as the Troubles are receding and a platform of stability has been established, it’s hard to see what there is to gain by continued suppression. Part of the reason may lie in the normal bureaucratic reflex of secrecy on security matters which the new culture of relative openness and FOI has yet to penetrate fully. Perhaps they’re waiting for the IRA and the other paramilitaries to confess in unison. Although I contend that an informal amnesty has long been in force, a statute of limitations may be neccesary. The Barron and Stevens reports point irresistibly to collusion and compel a better answer than persistent silence. Some may believe these two reports amount to the fullest disclosure we’re going to get. Others may be waiting for the Cory reports to establish a context. It is wrong to pin all blame on the Finucane family for that impasse. For as long responsibility is not discussed never mind admitted, fair minded people will suspect that the truth is so terrible that no government will dare disclose it. For as long as collusion remains so unresolved, British protestations of good faith in dealing with terrorism of all kinds will continue to ring hollow.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London