Bloody Sunday debate exposes doubt and disagreement over dealing with Northern Ireland’s past

No points to the Commons and Lords for the scheduling clash between the debate on lessons from the Bloody Sunday inquiry in the Upper House and Lord Saville’s personal appearance before the NI Select Committee yesterday. MPs failed to lay a glove on the now retired Supreme Court member over the epic 10 year time scale and £190 million cost of an inquiry whose impact casts a long shadow over the whole public inquiry system.. MPs were naturally caught between welcoming the public reception to the Report and its massive cost. The session got off to a blundering start with DUP MP David Simpson declaring :

You only focused on the day.” To which Saville inevitably replied ” Several hundred, perhaps a thousand pages were devoted to before the day.”

The standard of questioning barely rose from that level – as if MPs none of whom sounded as if they had read much of the report dared cross a top judge in command of his brief. Saville as the press reports confirm, was unrepentant:

 ” If you try to do it on the cheap you come unstuck. Lord Widgery was asked to do it quickly and boy, – if I may say so- did he come unstuck.”

The Lords debate was more concerned with the lessons that might be learned form the chequered Saville experience. What if anything might replace public inquiries?

There was much handwringing but little else. Only Carswell vs O’Loan rose to the level of events. The former police Ombudsman Lady O’Loan and the former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and retired law lord Lord Carswell classically laid out the opposing arguments, with Carswell – presumably speaking for much of the legal establishment – opposing further lengthy investigations into the Troubles ( even though, he might have added but didn’t, lawyers might be expected to make a lot of money out of it).

 

 Should the desire of some to pursue inquiries to the very end prevail, or should the interests of the community prevail in drawing a line? I have come to the conclusion—which I must express unequivocally, though I fear I find myself in disagreement with many noble Lords who have spoken—that those who say it is in the public interest to call a halt to further inquiries are right.

People have been hurt—many badly and some dreadfully. Much can and should be done to help them in various ways. However, as a society we badly need stability. One of the best ways of achieving that would be a long period with as little disturbance as possible. Furthermore, Northern Ireland is now in the process of tackling the many problems of today. It needs all the impulse and creativity that it can summon, untrammelled by the weight of old divisions and antipathies. To this end, the talents and energies, both emotional and practical, of its people must be harnessed. That can only be for the public good.”

Baroness O’Loan flatly contradicted him:

“With the deepest respect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carswell, it is surely inappropriate to refer to those who seek investigations into the murders of their loved ones as “picking at scabs”. It is said that the investigation of past atrocities costs too much and that it could undermine the peace. Indeed I was told on occasion that I should not report because I would destroy the peace process, destroy the RUC, destroy the PSNI, et cetera. None of this happened. As the Prime Minister said, the revelation of the truth makes us stronger.”

..the alleged “shoot to kill” deaths investigated by John Stalker and later by Colin Sampson were referred to my office. I initiated the work, having read the lengthy investigation files created by Mr Stalker and Mr Sampson. The work is massive, but the United Kingdom does have legal and moral obligations.

If the relatives of those murdered in England, Wales and Scotland can expect investigation, why must the situation be different in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom? To decide not to investigate is effectively to give impunity to all those who have killed.

I have previously suggested—I do so again—that there should be one independent investigation unit charged with investigating all the unsolved deaths of the Troubles. It should have full police powers and be properly resourced; it should incorporate the Police Ombudsman’s historic inquiries, the HET inquiries and any current police investigations of deaths which occurred during the Troubles. This would obviate the necessity for the current duplication of work and it would be cheaper to run because one could utilise the current combined costs of the PSNI historic investigations, the HET and the Police Ombudsman historic investigations.”

The British government will produce a view “early in the New Year.”But in the end, the key decisions will have to be taken by the Executive and the Assembly who will have to pay all or most of the costs. Is a specific decision  to  be made to wind down all the facilities for special inquiry into the Troubles? 

What do the main parties want? Can they ever agree? Although Sinn Fein publicly calls for an international tribunal, republicans are hardly likely to welcome probes into IRA savagery towards Catholics and the detailed exposure of informers.  And what pressure can there be on former IRA members to come clean when the record of new prosecutions is almost nil?

On the other side, the DUP choose not to follow the logic of their own compelling whataboutery ( see below ) and want to ” move on.”

This debate and the select commitee hearing  showed not only that legislators in the main don’t know how to proceed but that they are even reluctant to grasp the issues fully. To guide future policy, a fundamental question behind Carswell vs O’Loan has to be faced: do major investigations increase public confidence or weaken it? Invoking the reaction to the Billy Wright inquiry, the government seem to believe the latter.

After Saville, Dealing with the Past continues to drift. Privately many believe in doing nothing special, hoping it will fade away when the HET complete their work in say, three years time.

Extracts from key speeches follow.

 

Lord Shutt of Greetland. Government spokesman on NI in the Lords
 

 

There also remains a demand for public inquiries into a number of specific legacy cases. The Government’s overall position is clear: there will be no more open-ended and costly inquiries. The response to the recent report of the Billy Wright inquiry was much more polarised and showed that even an inquiry lasting six years and costing £30 million can be accused of not having answered critical questions.

..the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is listening to the views of people from all parts of the community. He intends to set out the Government’s thinking early next year.

Baroness Royal shadow Leader of the Lords ( Lab)
 

 

So what now of the inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane? What about the deaths of the 11 civilians at Ballymurphy in 1971, an incident where some of the soldiers on duty on the day were the same service personnel who were to be in Londonderry six months later? What about an inquiry into the Omagh bombing? To focus on the Ballymurphy case, in the context of the announcement that this is the end of the line for public inquiries, will the families find it slightly confusing that the Secretary of State recently met those who lost their loved ones at Ballymurphy? Perhaps it raised expectations of success in their call for just such an inquiry.

The HET is half way through its case load and it has spent all its allocated money. The scale of the historical case review is unprecedented and the HET has neither the human resources nor the budget to conduct complex inquiries like the Bloody Sunday or the Billy Wright inquiries. The Government cannot rely on the underresourced HET to deal with all the remaining cases, especially any future complex inquiries. The Billy Wright inquiry cost £35 million and that was for just one incident and one death. There are cases remaining of the complexity and profile of Billy Wright and it seems clear to these Benches that the HET is not the mechanism to address them. I also remind the House that, while funding for public inquires comes from central government at Westminster, the budget of the HET is supplied by the Government at Stormont.

However, this is not a time to stand still and tell the HET how to handle its workload. The situation in Northern Ireland is peaceful, but still fragile, as recent violence has made clear. It is crucial that we build a consensus to find a process to replace inquires, if they are to be ruled out. We must find a process to deal with the complex past; we cannot shut it down

Lord Eames, former Cof I Primate, co-chair of Eames/Bradley inquiry
 

 

I urge Her Majesty’s Government to accept that the time is right, through the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to urge the local parties in the devolved Administration to take the courage to address how they deal with the past on a cross-community basis. For obvious reasons—for political reasons—that is a very sensitive issue. No local political party grasps with open heart the issue of how to deal with the past. However, until there is that sort of agreement and the establishment of some structure to make that possible, the drip-by-drip agony will continue.

 

.

LORD Dubs former Lab NI minister

Other events happened in Northern Ireland, and every speaker so far has referred to them and said that we have to do something about them. I do not think that we can just ignore Ballymurphy because there was no whitewash Widgery-type inquiry about it. We cannot ignore it because that also involved soldiers. In Claudy, although no British troops were involved, I think that our Government were in some way complicit in transferring a particular person into Donegal and out of our jurisdiction

So we have a responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland, because they, above all, are entitled to closure and to some greater inner peace in their minds about some of those events.

I am not totally clear as to the best way ahead, but that of course is a responsibility for the Government. All that I hope is that they will look again at the conclusions in that report.

One outstanding issue is Finucane. There have been inquiries into Billy Wright; we have had the report. The Nelson and Hamill inquiries continue. I do not think that we can leave Finucane alone; there is too much concern about it. Next year, there will be crucial Assembly elections in Northern Ireland, and I would not want the Finucane issue to bedevil the discussions and debate in that election campaign.

 

Lord Bew, historical adviser to Saville, political adviser to David Trimble as Unionist leader
 

 

In certain cases there appears to be evidence that there has been an element of collusion between state forces and loyalist paramilitaries, but the number of republicans killed by loyalist paramilitaries is just over 30. So even if all these were cases of collusion in which state forces had helped the loyalist paramilitaries, that would be less than 1 per cent of the total of those who died during the Troubles.

It is also worth bearing in mind—and it has already been referred to—that for every one member of the IRA who fell during the Troubles, eight members of the security forces fell. Those are very important facts that have to be kept in mind.

We need now an attitude towards the past that does not privilege certain deaths. It is quite correct that we have led the way in those cases in which the state has behaved badly, but in a modern democracy we need to have more than that. Why? Because it demoralises the centre ground in Northern Ireland and those people with conventional morality who cannot figure out this way of dealing with matters. Most importantly, we rely on our Army and security services to help us in another and probably greater threat of terrorism. We need those in our Army and security services to know that while we will of course be vigilant with respect to wrong-doing, we also respect the work that they are doing and that the way in which we approach these matters, including the story of the Troubles, reflects that respect.

Lord Macdonald of River Glaven ( ex-DDP for England and Wales)
 

 

The inquiry took far too long and cost far too much but, when the report came, in its central findings it was exemplary. It is meticulous, it is scrupulous and, above all, it is fair.

Lord Tebbit: former Cons cabinet minister under Mrs Thatcher, with his wife, injured in the Brighton bomb, 1982

When I asked a little while ago if there would be an inquiry into the murders at the Grand Hotel, Brighton 26 years ago, my noble friend Lord Shutt told me:

“The Government have no plans to hold a public inquiry in relation to the terrorist attack on The Grand Hotel, Brighton, in October 1984.

It would not take long or cost much to establish who was behind the murders at Brighton—or indeed those at Claudy or Omagh, I suspect. IRA/Sinn Fein have claimed responsibility in some of those cases, and I understand that the identities of those who commanded the terrorist organisation at relevant times are well known to the authorities. Surely they could be invited to defend themselves against the suspicion that it was they who procured those bombings, not least that at Brighton. Or is it that the deaths at Brighton count for less than those at Londonderry? Or is it as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, might imagine—that the Queen’s soldiers are sitting ducks for inquiries and the members of the Army Council of Sinn Fein/IRA are, like the godfathers of the Mafia, not just too well connected and too powerful to be brought to justice but too important for the truth about them to be not merely known but to be published?

Lord Morrow, DUP

In an economic climate such as this, this £200-million Saville inquiry—perhaps the most expensive foregone conclusion in history—borders on the obscene.

It should be remembered that no one has ever been charged, let alone convicted, of the murders of the two RUC men that effectively sparked the events of Bloody Sunday. Moreover, the RUC lost more than 300 of its officers during the Troubles and, for more than 200 of those murders, no one has ever been tried, convicted or put before a court. Of course, for those officers of the law there will be no public inquiries. There will be no inquiry into the Remembrance Day massacre at Enniskillen; the massacre of the innocent at the La Mon House Hotel; Bloody Friday, when a series of bombs were planted strategically across Belfast leaving few routes of escape; Teebane, where workers were slaughtered in their van as they returned home; Kingsmill, when the IRA separated the Protestants from the Roman Catholics and gunned them down in cold blood; the Ballygawley Road/Omagh Road massacre of soldiers; Narrow Water, when 18 paras were massacred; and Darkley, when a small Pentecostal church was invaded by the IRA and people were murdered as they worshipped. There was the murder of Lord Mountbatten and the bombings at Hyde Park, Warrington, Brighton and Canary Wharf. I could go on. The list is seemingly endless.

It has been said in this House that there is but one inquiry that needs to be dealt with. I think that I have demonstrated quite clearly that there is more than one. It strikes me that there are 101. So why was there a Saville inquiry? The answer is abundantly clear. Political expediency was the order of the day, although that is no reflection on those who carried out the inquiry. This had absolutely nothing to do with truth and justice. Purely and simply, this was an attempt to appease the unappeasable—to soften the iron will of those who had terrorised Northern Ireland in a systematic campaign of annihilation and who were increasingly demonstrating their capacity for destruction and mayhem on the mainland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Brian your obvious dislike and belief that Lord Saville in some way acted inappropriately that members of parliment in some way should have laid a ‘glove’ upon him are not reflected in any of the quotes you provide.

    Carswell well understandably might want scrutiny of the past stopped if only for his own role as Diplock Judge.

    Baroness Royal put matters quite well while Lord Bew, as I would expect, tried to reduce the whole controvesy surrounding collusion as , well, ‘if loyalists did not murder a confirmed republican activist then it does not count” –I am sure relatives of the innocent victims would see it differently.

    Lord Morrow makes weak argument about other tragic cases –where as is known Security Forces did conduct investigations –that they failed to get ‘their man’ was not from lack of will as was the case with Bloody Sunday or Ballymurphy, et al. He also does not recognise that the RUC and Unionists have had scores of inquiries –they were called Diplock trials –which were very weighted against Nationalists –if sour grapes exist because those trial were a failure, again, were not from lack of trying.

  • Brian Walker

    Christy, I didn’t provide any quotes about Saville except David Simpson’s and later a line from Lord Morrow.My supposed “dislike” is not “obvious” to me. The criticisms of the length and cost of the inquiry are too well known to need repeating. I chose to concentrate mainly on the follow through over dealing with the past in the light of the government’s vow to have no more PIs like the BS tribunal. I thought the post was long enough, almost a mini-Saville.

    You can read full comments in the Lords Hansard and view the Saville select commitee in Parliament Live archive or read a transcript, probably in a few days’ time.

    I see no reason to ascribe ulterior motives to Carswell.

  • Brian appreciate your criticisms of costs –few would quibble with the costs as being result of unnecessary time wasting and avoidance at the truth -not ignoring prolonged suffering the families had to endure. Your tone toward Saville reads quite disapprovingly that in some way he had acted inappropiately that a’glove’ should have been laid upon him. If I am wrong then my appologies.

    I appreciate you did not ascribe nor hint toward any ulterior motives on Caswell’s part did not mean to suggest that you had if it read that way.

    Here is a sampler to Carswell and two other judges hearing things being said in Court that were not said –to be used as basis to uphold what they saw as an unsafe conviction See http://www.christywalsh.com/html/judges.html.

  • I think Lord Bew has missed the point of the collusion allegations. Which are not that they are limited to the targeting of nationalist paramilitaries (and I note he leaves out INLA/IPLO people) but rather than it went on for murders of people outside these groups as well, the claim being that the British government facilitated the murder not only of solicitors and the like, but also many innocent random civilians through aiding the re-organising and re-arming of loyalist groups.

    We can accept those allegations or not, but Lord Bew is not addressing the issues raised.

  • I think that was what Bew’ was intending, –reduce then discount.

  • madraj55

    BW. Simpson’s contribution was entirely predictable. He insists on the fatuous comparing of inquiries into wrongdoing by the State and normal police>court> prison method for us ordinary mortals. Simpson, Londongreg et al understand the difference perfectly but still indulge in this gallery playing. These are not serious figures in the body politic here. Saville got in a dig at Widgery which was well placed. If that inquiry had not been fixed, no Saville process would have been required.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Bew is just trying to bring some perspective to this. He rightly questions why the only killings in the Troubles some people seem to care about are those in which the security forces were involved. A reminder here of what we’re talking about:
    Security forces: lost 3 people for every 1 life they took;
    Republican terrorist groups: took 5 lives for every 1 they lost.
    This is why the focus on security force wrong committed during the Troubles – which were no doubt plentiful – “demoralises the centre ground in Northern Ireland and those people with conventional morality who cannot figure out this way of dealing with matters.” Spot on.

    Remember, Republicans killed 60 per cent, Loyalists 30 per cent and the security forces around 10 per cent. If we look at injuries and bombings, the responsibility sits even more disproportionately on Republicans. It was after all their “war”, the “armed struggle”.

    Yet some talk only of Finucane, the Stalker enquiry, collusion and Bloody Sunday. It just doesn’t make sense – unless of course, those people are acting in sectarian self-interest rather than out of a sense of even-handed compassion or justice. Keeping state offences in the public eye gives people the impression they were a bigger proportion of the killings than they were. Thus generations of Catholic children grow up thinking the Troubles was some kind of even fight between nasty imperialist Brits and the oppressed Irish people – rather than the Irish Republican-driven sectarian killfest that it for the most part was. And this tale is exported to a credulous, incurious world, only too happy to accept a conveniently packaged tale of British perfidy they don’t have to think too hard about.

    And his point about the Loyalist collusion is one many people ask. While there were no doubt some rogue cops who fed Loyalists names and addresses from time to time – it’s inconceivable something like that wouldn’t have happened at all during 30 years of terrorism – all but a few Loyalist killings were notably untargeted and characterised by “any Catholic will do”.

    Loyalists liked to think more respectable Prods really supported them – and there a few with John Taylor’s “sneaking regard”, though not as many as he or they think. Loyalists were wont to get very excited about any times they did get help from disgruntled cops or squaddies. But it’s also clear the crooked cops were rogue actors, not part of some grand conspiracy. The police were hated by Loyalists for not being on their side; “SS RUC” was a common opinion of the police in Loyalist areas. Loyalists got sent to jail at a faster and bigger rate than Republicans, by some distance.

    By all means look into collusion but its role in the Troubles is not huge in relation to the whole, as Bew says.

  • Mainland Ulsterman,

    You’re making one of the same points I am. Most loyalist killings were random. But where did the weapons for them come from, particularly after the mid-1980s? That’s the point of the collusion allegations – not just the targeting of people actively involved, but enabling random killing as well. There are a lot of questions on that score still to answer. Among the allegations is the idea that loyalists were facilitated in an effort to add pressure to moves towards peace within the provisionals from the late 1980s on. So it wouldn’t be seen from day one, or consistently. One doesn’t have to believe these allegations to want them to be described properly by someone in parliament.

    As for the prospect of a grand conspiracy going all the way to the top. I don’t think it was that. But neither was it just a few rogue officers, at least not according to the Stevens Report. So while it clearly wasn’t the main factor in the troubles, and not even the main factor behind loyalist violence, its very existence is a major issue.

  • The balance is not in quotas –we all know that the IRA disregarded UK law and killed –that was their stated intent –the point that seems to excape you and Bew –UK Law enforcment agencies disregarded UK Laws –killed and aided in killing.

    Given the prestige of some IRA informers with little obvious return in lives saved –and some controversay that Security Forces members were allowed to go to their death in order to protect ‘valuable’ informants –there are those who have suggested that there was also a form of collussion going on with some republicans.

    If top IRA ‘spy catchers’ were working for the security forces then who were they killing? It would be reasonable to expect that they would remove the ‘wrong’ people to cover and assist the ‘right’ people to operate within the IRA, as their handlers might advise.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Christy,
    Infiltrating and defeating an organisation like the IRA was never going to be done without a mess and your heart goes out to innocent people who were hurt or killed in that effort. If any of it was unnecessary then let’s uncover that. But we have to make allowances for what it takes to defeat a brutal and tight-knit gang. The Italian and US authorities have had to face similar unenviable moral conundra in their struggles against organised crime.

    The point had not escaped me that UK law enforcement agencies have killed people in Northern Ireland – indeed I said “security force wrongs committed during the Troubles – which were no doubt plentiful …” My point was about challenging why they take up so many column inches and so much narrative space in the story of the Troubles when they were a relatively small part of the overall picture.

  • I know what your point was, you seem to have overlooked what I had said, “The balance is not in quotas… –UK Law enforcment agencies disregarded UK Laws –killed and aided in killing.” And that is why they deserve so much attention, telling the IRA to ‘do as I say and not as I do” is in many eyes hypocritical, whatever, of IRA actions.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Christy,
    No I didn’t overlook what you said; I felt it missed the point, as I had anyway acknowledged that the security forces had killed innocent people. My point was it’s very hard to defeat a violent gang over 30 years without using force yourself. It has to be the minimum force necessary of course, but given the amount of people the terrorists had killed and were continuing to kill, it is inconceivable that people would not be killed in the security forces’ inevitable and important work to stop the terrorists, which I’m sure you supported.

    Much comment on the nationalist side about police and Army tactics in the Troubles forgets they were under a moral and legal obligation to try and stop the terrorists. This wasn’t a situation they chose or welcomed. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude for the bravery they showed in taking those murderous idiots on.

    By all means look at where the security forces slipped up, or where elements of them acted in a corrupt or wrong way. Indeed “UK Law enforcement agencies disregarded UK Laws – killed and aided in killing” – as you and I have already both noted. But was this not surely inevitable? What other security forces in the world would have done a more humane job against organisations like the IRA and UVF?

    The failings of those whose aim was to stop terrorism are too often approached as if they have some kind of equivalence with the terrorists. Not only were their aims of a different nature to that of the terrorists, but their contribution to the overall suffering of people was much, much smaller in scale. Security forces accounted for around 10 per cent of Troubles deaths (and even that was skewed by the high casualty rate in the early years; in the latter years of the Troubles it was running at about 5 per cent). Terrorism accounted for 90 per cent of the deaths, of which two thirds was Republican and one third Loyalist.

    So when I see people placing strong emphasis on this aspect of the Troubles, I do question their political motives for doing so. Clearly it feeds a nationalist-friendly Troubles narrative, as “moral equivalence” magically turns Republicans’ overwhelming moral responsibility for the Troubles into some kind of a 50/50 draw. Very convenient for them and their apologists.

  • Big Maggie

    Mainland Ulsterman,

    I suspect you’re deliberately missing the point. You’re not alone in this, as we can deduce from the words of several of an Ulster unionist tinge whom Brian quotes above.

    The point is such a simple one that it could not possibly be lost on anyone who’s honest and without an agenda, and it’s this:

    The security forces when acting on Bloody Sunday, and in a number of other instances, lost their moral compass.

    The IRA never had one.

  • “The failings of those whose aim was to stop terrorism are too often approached as if they have some kind of equivalence with the terrorists.”

    If they did not observe UK Law and people were killed as result of that, then, where is the distinction between them and the IRA or UVF? One British Prime Minister once observed that “murder, is murder, is murder.”

    Your statistics are not reliable because one occassion Loyalist/Republican actions where planned, permitted or helped by the Security Forces. How frequently those occasions were are undetermined –thus your statistics have no solid basis.

    Security Force collussion in or direct involvment with murder of innocent people cannot be excused because of reluctance to accept their role in the Troubles.

    You make lame defence for Security Force actions by pointing up that the IRA had no allegence to UK Law and throughout the Troubles broke those laws more frequently than the Security Forces… such that the Security Forces were entitled to join them in the same breaches of UK Law.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    “If they did not observe UK Law and people were killed as result of that, then, where is the distinction between them and the IRA or UVF?”
    (1) The security forces were tasked by parliament to do a policing job and reduce the numbers of people dying in the terrorist campaigns. The terrorists were, well, terrorists.
    (2) Terrorists drove and carried out the vast bulk of the Troubles, demonstrably. Terrorist murders accounted for 90 per cent of Troubles deaths, so they are on quite a different scale to the mistakes and rogue actions emanating from the security forces.

    “Your statistics are not reliable because one occassion Loyalist/Republican actions where planned, permitted or helped by the Security Forces. How frequently those occasions were are undetermined –thus your statistics have no solid basis.”
    They aren’t my statistics, they are the Sutton Index of Deaths from CAIN and are generally recognised as the most accurate data available.
    Nice try to brush off the weight of the facts to try and bluff some sort of moral equivalence position. But to try and blame the security forces for the Republican murder campaign and its Loyalist equivalent is really quite funny. What proportion of deaths do you think were actually directed by the security forces, as a matter of interest? That is one deludoid position you’ve taken up there mate.

    “Security Force collussion in or direct involvment with murder of innocent people cannot be excused because of reluctance to accept their role in the Troubles.”
    Well quite, I acknowledged that at least twice, includsing in my initial post. You’re trying to wriggle off the hook here – you’ve avoided the main question: why is so much attention given to these incidents over others, given the overall pattern of violence in the Troubles? Silence …

    “You make lame defence for Security Force actions by pointing up that the IRA had no allegence to UK Law and throughout the Troubles broke those laws more frequently than the Security Forces… such that the Security Forces were entitled to join them in the same breaches of UK Law.”
    You’re confused: I didn’t actually say anything about IRA allegiance to UK law, which is irrelevant anyway as they are subject to it whether they like it or not. And I didn’t say Security Forces were “entitled to join them” … not sure where you got that from. I was clear all breaches of UK law were just that and should be punished regardless of the perpetrator. But the fact is most of the perpetrators were Irish Republicans! And you still haven’t explained the focus on deaths caused by the security forces. Even Loyalist killings get comparatively little attention. Presumably, because they didn’t fit so neatly into the British Establishment vs oppressed Irish Catholic narrative Republicans have tried to spin. You’re not seriously taken in by that are you?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Big Maggie,
    Well I agree with your words in bold italics entirely so I’m not sure why you think I’m deliberately missing the point. Especially as it was actually my point – well Paul Bew’s to be fair – to start with …?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Agreed, it is an issue worthy of consideration – and let’s not get it out of proportion just because it involves the State.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    “(1) The security forces were tasked by parliament to do a policing job and reduce the numbers of people dying in the terrorist campaigns.”
    While an eye may have been turned they were not tasked to break Parliments laws and kill afew innocent people or allow innocent people to get killed in order to protect an informer –but they did.

    “(2) Terrorists drove and carried out the vast bulk of the Troubles, demonstrably. Terrorist murders accounted for 90 per cent of Troubles deaths, so they are on quite a different scale to the mistakes and rogue actions emanating from the security forces.”
    Sutton is an unfinished piece of work –the whole extent of collussion, use of Informers along with the use of Agents are all greatly unknown.

    “They aren’t my statistics, they are the Sutton Index of Deaths from CAIN and are generally recognised as the most accurate data available.”
    As above, Sutton is not complete –merely based on what is ‘available’ as you point out.

    “Nice try to brush off the weight of the facts to try and bluff some sort of moral equivalence position.”
    No bluff. If the IRA broke Parlimentary statutes in killing and the Security Forces did likewise –how many each killed is irrelavant –that they both did makes them equal.

    “What proportion of deaths do you think were actually directed by the security forces, as a matter of interest?”
    I am not hazzarding a ‘porportion’ because the final tally is unknown — as I have made clear.

    “”Security Force collussion in or direct involvment with murder of innocent people cannot be excused because of reluctance to accept their role in the Troubles.”
    Well quite, I acknowledged that at least twice, includsing in my initial post.”

    So they acted just the same as the IRA did –in other words they are equivalent –so what are you arguing about. –One was a worst ‘terrorist’ than the other because they killed more? –if that is so, then they are both ‘terrorists’.

    “You’re trying to wriggle off the hook here “you’ve avoided the main question: why is so much attention given to these incidents over others, given the overall pattern of violence in the Troubles? Silence”
    UK Law enforcement agencies are supposed to be law abiding –not directing operations or supplying weapons to the IRA/UVF as they had done –or mimicing their tactics,. –duh!

    “You’re confused: I didn’t actually say anything about IRA allegiance to UK law, which is irrelevant anyway as they are subject to it whether they like it or not.”
    I think the IRA’s point was they didn’t give a damn about what the British thought and acted accordingly. The Security Forces, ‘like it or not’ should have regard to the very Laws that the IRA disregarded. That they did not means they joined the IRA/UVF campaigns in their own right.

    “And I didn’t say Security Forces were ‘entitled to join them’ not sure where you got that from.”
    You suggest they had fudge and break the rules to fight the IRA.

    “I was clear all breaches of UK law were just that and should be punished regardless of the perpetrator.”
    So you use my argument and put the IRA and Law breaking Security Forces on a par with each other.

    “And you still haven’t explained the focus on deaths caused by the security forces.”
    We do not know the whole sordid story of how many they death they facillitated even among their own foot soldiers walking into ambushes where the interests of protecting informers was considered more important.

    “Even Loyalist killings get comparatively little attention. Presumably, because they didn’t fit so neatly into the British Establishment vs oppressed Irish Catholic narrative Republicans have tried to spin. You’re not seriously taken in by that are you?”
    With the volumes of security force files in Loyalist possession and the Brian Nelson affair –have given Loyalists credibility when they defended the murder of innocent people by pointing to their information and saying “we were only as good as the information we were given.” Further still, if Security Forces help supply Loyalists with weapons then are they not responsible for anyone that Loyalists killed with them? Of course they are.

  • Proportion is important. But so is chronology. The allegations of collusion centre from the late 1980s on. At which point the loyalists began killing at a much higher rate, and soon they were killing more than the provisionals between them. So for that period of the Troubles, proportion indicates an extremely serious issue.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Christy,
    “While an eye may have been turned they were not tasked to break Parliments laws and kill afew innocent people or allow innocent people to get killed in order to protect an informer –but they did.”
    Indeed, not disputing that.

    “Sutton is an unfinished piece of work –the whole extent of collusion, use of informers along with the use of agents are all greatly unknown.”
    To some extent, but my question remains unanswered: how many deaths are you expecting the state to be implicated in? Because they have a long, long, long way to go before before they match Republicans or Loyalists. Seems to me this is being used to get away from the basic big picture, which is unflattering for all sets of terrorists.

    “No bluff. If the IRA broke Parlimentary statutes in killing and the Security Forces did likewise –how many each killed is irrelavant –that they both did makes them equal.”
    You are confusing the idea that any two murders are in a sense morally equal in that they are murders – true up to a point – with the idea that paramilitary groups are morally equivalent to the police – not true. The fact that members of both have committed murders in the course of that membership ignores for example the difference in purpose, structure, training, accountability, moral obligations and civic duties of a legally constituted state body versus a self-appointed, unaccountable armed gang bent on killing people it disagrees with.

    “I am not hazzarding a ‘porportion’ because the final tally is unknown — as I have made clear.”
    But it’s not 60 per cent of all Troubles deaths, is it?

    “One was a worst (sic) ‘terrorist’ than the other because they killed more? –if that is so, then they are both ‘terrorists’.”
    No, I made the point that there are other reasons why it is silly – though politically very convenient for the actual terrorists – to suggest the police are or were themselves terrorists like them. The point about numbers is an additional reason why focussing on police wrongs produces an unrepresentative picture of the Troubles as a whole, given their responsibility for deaths was around 3 per cent (the Army accounted for the rest of the 10 per cent or so). Equivalence indeed.

    “UK Law enforcement agencies are supposed to be law abiding –not directing operations or supplying weapons to the IRA/UVF as they had done –or mimicing their tactics,. –duh!”
    You’re not reading closely enough, security force murders were wrong when they happened, I never suggested otherwise.

    “I think the IRA’s point was they didn’t give a damn about what the British thought and acted accordingly.”
    Clearly – which is why they made such tits of themselves. If they had the capacity to listen to sense they never would have started their stupid campaign.

    “The Security Forces, ‘like it or not’ should have regard to the very Laws that the IRA disregarded. That they did not means they joined the IRA/UVF campaigns in their own right.”
    By and large they did have regard to those laws. Again, the fact some breached the rules is regrettable of course but it does not follow that all policing was null and void as a result. The vast majority of what was done was brave, fair and uncontroversial. The destruction of the fighting capacity and will of terrorist organisations from within necessitated some very morally dubious dealings it is clear. But overall most people are glad it happened.

    “So you use my argument and put the IRA and Law breaking Security Forces on a par with each other.”
    No, all crime is on a par and should be dealt with as such through the courts – we are all equal before the law. This does not mean the IRA gains some kind of leg up to respectability, but some members of the security forces lost discipline or took the law into their own hands from time to time. Those members of the security forces should be answerable for what they did. But why let the IRA off the hook too? Makes no sense.

    “We do not know the whole sordid story of how many they death they facillitated even among their own foot soldiers walking into ambushes where the interests of protecting informers was considered more important.”
    Again, ignoring the 60 per cent of Republican killings. Exactly what I’ve been talking about.

    “With the volumes of security force files in Loyalist possession and the Brian Nelson affair –have given Loyalists credibility when they defended the murder of innocent people by pointing to their information and saying “we were only as good as the information we were given.” Further still, if Security Forces help supply Loyalists with weapons then are they not responsible for anyone that Loyalists killed with them? Of course they are.”
    Yes they would be responsible if they supplied weapons, but there is no evidence to say this was anything other than renegade members of the security forces, not some grand plan. Again, this is a small part of the Troubles, though clearly one that irks Republicans, so maybe it is worth dwelling on after all;)

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    If you insist that a figure be put on how many deaths the security forces were responsible for –then considering arming Loyalists (you recall a whole cargo ship from South Africe at least), running infomers in all paramilitary orgs, running agents in the field like Nelson –then we are left pondering not how many they had a hand in but what few did they not effect? Your 10% could when all information is made available very easily become 50%, 73.4% or 90%. Or it could it be 60% as you ask. We simply do not know.

    So not only would they be responsible for anyone killed by weapons supplied by them –( sanctioned and not by rogue elements). Then one must consider that in 1974 the British Government had accepted as a genuine, and bonafide, a request from the IRA for help in how to bring the whole thing to an end. Implying that they wanted to end the conflict short of a united Ireland. –A desire for total victory over the IRA perpetuated the conflict –the IRA had a broad support base and ability to fight on as we have not only seen but as we know the British Government had to concede to sitting down and talking. Sinn Fein is part of the governance of Northern Ireland. The whole thing could have been stopped in 1974 –who carries responsibility that it was not?

    Going back a little further –the whole civil rights association –Hume et al, where branded as fronts for the IRA –who got that wrong and turned valid and reasoned requests for equality and civil liberty into violent clashes? The Civil Rights Association was undeniably a peaceful movement but a desire for continued Unionist Supremacy saw an end to peaceful civil expression. The violence of Internment and Bloody Sunday had crossed the Rubicon in Nationalists minds.

    When a Minister of State expresses his desire that he did not want to see ‘mere arrests and processing people through the courts’ –that was specific call for the Security Forces to step outside of the law and due process, and possibly to anyone lese who wished to attack peaceful marchers.

    When security forces called on women and children to seperate from the main body of peaceful marches –that was intention to inflict violence.

    Scores of IRA/UVF members have gone to jail –the security forces have largely escaped culpability –so yes they need to be scrutinised and truths need to be learned of what murderious scheming and coniving they did –and got away with.

  • Garibaldy

    Collussion goes right back to the start of the Troubles –RUC all too often looked on as Loyalists/Unionists were attacking Nationalists in 1968-9. That areas of Belfast were of limits to the security Forces to allow Loyalists to get in and out of Nationalist districts since the very first killings.

  • Yes, Christy, there was definitely collusion as seen at Burntollet and what have you. I think though that it was not necessarily consistent in its scope.

  • Christy,

    I take your point, not least because of Burntollet and the like. Having said that, I don’t think it was consistently the same all across the Troubles, and it ebbed and flowed, and some if it was bad apples.

  • Big Maggie

    Mainland Ulsterman,

    My apologies if I was misreading you (and Paul Bew). I suppose I’m becoming a little weary of people calling for “inquiries” into terrorist slaughter.

    I thought we already had that mechanism: police investigation. Terrorists are civilians and therefore subject to our laws and court procedure. The armed forces are not. They have their own method of housekeeping: courts martial. Saville was convoked because the military were found wanting in their housekeeping, as was Master Widgery.

    I’d dearly love that the perpetrators of the countless atrocities of our troubled decades be brought to book and punished. Perhaps it’s still possible. Yet a public inquiry is not the route to take. We must reserve that course of action for the calling to account of those who’ve sworn to serve the state in an honourable manner and have signally failed to do so.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Though public inquiries get more money and profile than court cases, so it skews things.

  • Garibaldy

    Collussion may have fluctuated but no more than the conflict did. The British did not settle matters in 1974 because the UDA said it wasn’t ready to stop -even though the IRA were. It was no accident that the UDA were a legal organisation until 1992 given its history. Or that the British permitted 10% of weapons from the newly formed UDR to be passed to Loyalists each year. Similarly with RUC weapons although fewer –never-the-less, that would be a huge quantity of weapons over the lifetime of the conflict –how many members of the security forces have been prosecuted for handing over their weapons?

    If we consider the Ruger Michael Stone used in Miltown Cemetry as an example –the RUC Office who owned it, we are supposed to believe, could not be identified because the serial number had been ground off –that is Forensic bunkem –as we know the serial number is embedded into its molecular structure –grinding does not disguise it. We can only begin to imagine how many weapons were handed over in this way since 1969 yet no cops or UDR were pursued very vigoriusly –this was the consistent norm, such that it was condoned and maybe even fully endorsed from the top.

    Former miltary leader in the UDR, Ken McGuiness, now Lord once said ‘one man’s collussionist is another man’s freedom fighter’. In truth ‘one man’s collussionist is another man’s assassin’.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    “If you insist that a figure be put on how many deaths the security forces were responsible for –then considering arming Loyalists (you recall a whole cargo ship from South Africe at least), running infomers in all paramilitary orgs, running agents in the field like Nelson –then we are left pondering not how many they had a hand in but what few did they not effect? Your 10% could when all information is made available very easily become 50%, 73.4% or 90%. Or it could it be 60% as you ask. We simply do not know.”
    Ah, “my” 10 per cent indeed … Thus are the obvious facts about Republican killings obscured and avoided. It would be interesting indeed if 90 per cent of Republican killings were carried out by British agents, ahem … The infiltration really freaked you guys out didn’t it? In fact, maybe the IRA was actually started by MI5 …

    Then one must consider that in 1974 the British Government had accepted as a genuine, and bonafide, a request from the IRA for help in how to bring the whole thing to an end.”
    Well no. The government listened to them as you might expect, but at the meeting that took place in Cheyne Walk, by all accounts they were struck by how ridiculous and unrealistic the IRA demands were (they would stop if they got a commitment to a timetable for a united Ireland). They did not imply that they wanted to end the conflict short of a united Ireland. The desire for total victory was the IRA’s. The responsibility for perpetuating the conflict belongs to who did the killing – overwhelmingly it was a Republican adventure.

    “The British Government had to concede to sitting down and talking.”
    Well, the IRA, the drivers of the whole conflict, were offering to give up. The government did the right thing there, despite large sections of the Catholic community letting us down and voting Sinn Fein.

    The whole thing could have been stopped in 1974 –who carries responsibility that it was not?
    The IRA, other groups of Republican goons and to a lesser extent Loyalist idiots.

    “Going back a little further –the whole civil rights association –Hume et al, where branded as fronts for the IRA –who got that wrong and turned valid and reasoned requests for equality and civil liberty into violent clashes?”
    Some unionists definitely called that wrong and it was poorly handled. At the same time, as leading historian Richard English’s history “Armed Struggle” points out, unionists were not 100 per cent wrong in suspecting links between the NICRA and the Republican movement: “There was a direct, causal, practical and ideological connection between the 1960s IRA and the civil rights initiative; and it was from the IRA’s Wolfe Tone Societies that the Northern Ireland civil rights movement emerged.” (English, Armed Struggle, p90)
    That said, it clearly was committed to peaceful change, so far as it went, and in that it was quite right and I hope I would have supported it had I been around then. A young Paul Bew was a member. But NICRA’s coat-trailing marches through Protestant areas in early 1969 did a lot to stoke up sectarian tension, was advised against by senior NICRA people and even IRA people lijke Roy Johnston felt NICRA had to take some of the blame for what happened at Burntollet; “It basically trailed the coat in those Antrim towns and set up the civil rights movement as a perceived nationalist provocation … the march was disastrously counter-productive.”

    “The violence of Internment and Bloody Sunday had crossed the Rubicon in Nationalists minds.”
    Now we leap on to 1971-2. You miss out all the Republican killings in the meantime, which led to the government having to consider internment in the first place (though it was a mistake) and which meant that even after Bloody Sunday, Republicans had killed way more people than anyone else in the nascent conflict. The self-righteous anger on their part thereafter has to be taken with a large pinch of salt – they’d killed way more people than that themselves already – 118 killed by Republicans in total by the end of 1971 – but apparently those deaths weren’t anything to get worked up about. Don’t get me wrong, Bloody Sunday was a crime and a tragedy; but even in January 1972, it wasn’t typical of the overall picture, which was still one dominated by Republican violence.

    “Scores of IRA/UVF members have gone to jail –the security forces have largely escaped culpability …”
    I have some sympathy with the need to bring wrong-doers in the security forces to justice. But not when the calls come from IRA apologists. Only a small proportion of Republican murders ever got a prosecution or conviction, much smaller than Loyalists. They got off lightly in truth. When you consider that Republican terrorists killed 5 people for every one of them that got killed; and that the security forces by contrast lost 3 members for every one life they took, we can see the imbalance here in talking about any kind of equivalence.

    To those who suffer most will come victory – this is why Republicans lost in the end.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Did you ever consider that perhaps Loyalists wanted to kill Republicans all on their own? They probably did get help from renegade sympathisers who managed to smuggle Army guns out etc, but they were actually pretty poorly armed on the whole. And their arsenal was nowhere near that of the IRA. Sounds odd, if they had such a ready supply of arms. Where did it all go?

    Loyalist violence died down to a fairly low level from 1977-1989 (17 per cent of killings in that period), while Republican violence continued on a level and became even more dominant (70 per cent of deaths in that period). I lived through that period and as a Protestant, you did think, sooner or later Loyalists are going to have a go back again and do tit for tat. And sure enough it happened. I think that would have happened anyway, the imbalance in the conflict was always unlikely to last. It may be surprising there wasn’t a change of Loyalist leadership earlier. It will be interesting to see if they did get arms from renegade soldiers – wouldn’t be surprising if something had got through at some point. But really the generational change of Loyalist leadership was the big factor and the emergence of a generation of Loyalists embittered by the Republican campaign and the perceived lack of security force or Loyalist response in the 80s.

  • NICRA opposed the marches in early 1969 – they were People’s Democracy organised, although some republicans did take part against policy in the early stages, before a decision was taken to provide support for it given the reaction against it.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    “The infiltration really freaked you guys out didn’t it?” I think you would do well to keep your allegations in check. I was not in the IRA. What I do not think is that the security forces were of higher moral fibre than IRA/UVF. They were not but they did have laws and a legal system to give them respectability but that did not make them respectable. Some RUC may have acted and believed in conducting themselves as policemen but it was a force that was fundamentally anti Nationalsit –not all Nationalists were IRA supporters but they still knew were they stood with the security forces. And absolutely, yes, both Loyalists and Republicans could and did kill all on their own as did members of the security forces.

    You mistake NICRA for the PD’s who wanted to mimic a similar type march in Alabama which was also violently attacked. NICRA was not part of the Burntollet so hardly came in for criticism from Roy Johnston who ever he was. As for coat trialing –you are joking with that — it wouldn’t even register in comparrison to Orange Order coat trialing. And on the same day Major Bunting had wanted to storm the Bogside and ‘unfurl the colours’.

    Now given you have accused me of IRA, or Republican paramilitary membership –who really could call for the “wrong-doers in the security forces to” be brought to “justice”? that you would not label “IRA apologists”. Though getting at the truth is what I would be interested in. But also were they really ‘wrong doers’ if they were following instruction or it was consistant practice for those in authority to conveniently over look things and that was taken advantage off?

    Nowhere have I suggested that the IRA or Loyalists were not/are not responsible for what they had done –the security forces played dirty tricks and now more presure is on to discover exactly what tricks were played –have colluded and played ‘dirty tricks’ the security forces cannot now moan or complain because their antics might be exposed.

    In the most part, but not in all cases, both Loyalist and Republicans have claimed responsibility for who they killed –the focus is on, and will remain on, the security forces to disclose exactly what murders they carried out, planned, or facilitated. They can now hardly complain for playing the mixer and carrying out dirty tricks for creating half the suspicions that people have about what exactly they were involved in.

  • Where did all the Loyalists arms go –that is a good question –I wouldn’t be surprised if they were shipped to some other conflict the British had their hand in or some swapped for drugs –I really do not know, you are asking the wrong person.

    Here is a link to an article in yesterdays Irish News about the McGurk bombing, http://www.christywalsh.com/files/mi5_in_18.10.10.jpg

    The evidence uncovered reveals that all blame would be placed upon the IRA in order to help bring in a one sided Internment policy. The point I would like to emphasis is that this is further proof of collussion from the start of the Troubles, if even indirectly, because the Loyalist perpetrators were effectively excused and given a clean getaway to kill another day.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    You’re quite on the the NICRA / PD error.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Christy,
    We could go on in this fashion at length for some time. Suffice to say, the question you have noticeably not gone anywhere near is the one we started with: why the focus on these killings rather than others. Your explanation that it’s just out of curiosity is disingenuous. Though Republicans claimed responsibility for a lot of killings, there were relatively few convictions. So the “unsolved murder” argument for privileging the crimes of your choice doesn’t really wash.

    Also, I didn’t accuse you of being in the IRA, I was just addressing you as an apologist for the Republican movement, which I don’t think is inaccurate.

    Finally, I’ve said a number of times, murder is murder whether it’s the security forces or anyone else. If we focus on each life lost in the Troubles equally, we should be spending 60 per cent of our time talking about Republican killings, 30 per cent talking about Loyalist killings and about 10 per cent talking about deaths caused by the security forces, roughly. Attempts by Republicans to reduce their share should surely be greeted by any thinking person with scepticism.

  • I have answered the question repeatedly and at length.

    Your statistics –as adopted from someone else, are not reliable given that the extent of collussion is an unknown quantity.

    I posted previously which you seem to have over looked and so will copy below —but consider that if the first bomb to have mass fatalities was a loyalsit bomb but blamed on the IRA and has been exposed as such 40 years later then the security forces may soon become the main instigator or perpetrator of the bulk of the dead –even if the IRA or UVF had also been involved in the same operations.

    [quote]Here is a link to an article in yesterdays Irish News about the McGurk bombing, http://www.christywalsh.com/files/mi5_in_18.10.10.jpg

    The evidence uncovered reveals that all blame would be placed upon the IRA in order to help bring in a one sided Internment policy. The point I would like to emphasis is that this is further proof of collussion from the start of the Troubles, if even indirectly, because the Loyalist perpetrators were effectively excused and given a clean getaway to kill another day.[/quote]

    I have not, nor do I, make any appology for any group IRA or UVF –unlike your deperate attempts at trying to lessen the security forces involvment in mass murder –as was the McGurks bar bombing and no doubt more.