Holy Cross, the ECHR and (sigh) the NIHRC

A couple of months ago the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed an application brought against the PSNI by a mother and daughter who were arguing that several of their rights under the The European Convention of Human Rights had been denied during the Holy Cross dispute.

The ECHR’s explanation for their decision is interesting enough in itself and can be read here; the history of the case is even more intriguing for seasoned observers of the local Human Rights Industry and, in particular, of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC).

The Holy Cross dispute happened during Brice Dickson’s tenure as Chief Commissioner of the NIHRC and ultimately led to the resignation of  Commissioners and the ‘withdrawal’ of two others. Dickson had disagreed with a decision of the NIHRC’s casework committee to support the parent’s legal challenge to the policing of the dispute and wrote a letter outlining those disagreements  to the then Chief Constable. The letter, inevitably, entered the “public domain” during the legal proceedings, causing all sorts of internal ructions within the NIHRC.  The Commission, under the new leadership of Monica McWilliams, however continued to support the parent’s case through the normal stages of the N.Irish legal system and right up to the House of Lords.

 According to Wiki (yes, I know;)) the Commission continued to fund the case but having tried to dig out the information elsewhere, it’s not clear to me as to whether that support continued (or continues) to be of a financial nature. Ms McWilliams said this of the HOL appeal:

“The Commission did not take this case but intervened with the House of Lords permission as a third party on human rights legal points”

The Lords rejected the appeal and one of the Law Lords in its judgement said of the NIHRC’s intervention:

“…. the commission had “unnecessarily wasted their time” and that its intervention was of “no assistance”.”

The well-known firm of Belfast solicitors taking the case decided then to opt for the ultimate court of appeal in the European context with the result mentioned at the start of the post.

The family had (obviously) the right to start the case and it was their solicitor’s responsibility to get it as far as possible along the legal route.

But surely now there needs to be a serious examination of the role of the NIHRC at different stages in this case?

An organisation, financed by the taxpayer, has not performed the kind of competent and informed service over the full period of nine years that we have a right (and yep, taxpayers have rights as well) to expect.

Yet there has been no comment on the ECHR’s verdict by either the NIHRC and (to my knowledge anyway) in the MSM; an inconvenient verdict (in more ways than one) has been simply buried?

  • latcheeco

    Alf,
    If you are going to try and bait people then you must do it with a little more subtly and finesse than that. But please do feel free to note my failure to bite, and store it away neatly like a good chap along with your vaunted and clearly extensive knowledge of improvised explosive devices to which I obviously must defer (although how that expertise fits with your claimed abhorrence of terrorism is puzzling).
    That you are so bereft of ideas that you feel a need to resort to whataboutery in some inanely crass comparison between the treatment of the Holy Cross girls and the horrible murder of Tim Parry and Jonathon Ball in Warrington seems to suggest that you think there was some valid quid pro quo between the two events and that Aflf is even further beneath contempt than your other utterings and truly betrays your thinking.

  • I think the whole case was botched from the getgo. The case was against the cops because of bad organisation and managment of the whole affair (not to say that some officers did their best) there was no proper forensic collection of evidence and the Loyalists, while still allowing them their right to protest, they should have been moved to a safer distance away –especially as they were prone to throw ballons with urine (source of DNA evidence never collected) and ultimately a bomb.

    The NIHRC effectively sabotaged this case from the start and then appear to have carried it as a public face saving exercise in attempt to suggest they had some concern for human rights issues –those who had did the honourable thing and distanced themselves from the Commission.

    The NIHRC is effectively a quango hobby for bored middle class house wives (of whatever gender) –and, who have no concept of what human right violations mean or their consequence. Sad to say but the most effective champions of human rights in NI were women with prams and toddlers standing in the rain outside prisons or court houses with placards day in day out throughout the Troubles –none of these women, with real experience, will ever be graced with a comfortable office and lavish lunches at the commission (I have seen their spoils)? Yet a foot soldier in any paramilitary organisation could effectivey hold any office in government??

  • Cynic2

    latcheeco

    Now now, you are following the Chris Donnelly line of argument that anyone who disagrees with you even on issues of facts must be:

    1 ignorant
    2 sectarian

  • andnowwhat

    Why would they have had their right to protest Christy?

    There was nothing to protest about. IMO it was related to the parading issue and about who can walk “the queen’s highway”. Iam pretty sure that I could be wrong on that buit that was the sense I had at the time.

    There is no legitimacy in their protest no matter how wrong I was about their motive. They were simply sick in what they did.

    BTW, considering that they threw a pipe bomb at a member of HM police force, I think we should not refer to them as lloaylists. Dirtbags seems to fit better

  • latcheeco

    Cynic,
    If you can prove that, or have issue with anything I wrote please point it out; otherwise it just looks like you’re flailing around and wining like a bitch because you feel Chris cleaned your clock, in which case it would be best if you retired with dignity.

    Nevertheless, it is interesting that you suggest that either Alf or the protestors (it’s not clear who you are gallantly riding in to defend) are both ignorant and sectarian, whereas I feel the protest, and his Warrington comparison to it, beggar even that description.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “I think if you will check you may find that Flanagan asked the Commission for its view.”

    No, quite the contrary. Even Brice later admitted that the letter was a mistake.

    “Bearing in mind that 40 police were actually injured during that period, I would have thought it would always be an uphill battle.”

    In the US there wouldn’t be a claim. Recall the riot(s) in LA after the first Rodney King verdict. Over 400 lawsuits against LAPD, etc., were dismissed on the basis of sovereign immunity. That’s why, by the way, when you hear some here in the US speak to our right to keep and bear arms, they aren’t so wacko. If the police can do nothing and we’ve no redress owing to the state’s assertion of sovereign immunity, then time to be able to defend ourselves. In your circumstance, the number of injuries to the police means next to nothing. Standing there with shields was asking to be injured. Or more correctly, their superiors decided that they should be injured, since that was the forseeable result. As you can see from the history of the case, nothing was ever decided by a jury. That’s why I wouldn’t have gone that route, as the “system” tends to take care of its own. The way it plays out here in the US is, again, no liability for any claimed omission, since no real duty to protect owing to notion of sovereign immunity, but if they commit an affirmative act, say, shoot somebody, then you don’t file in state court, as the law in every state is that actions against the state are tried to the judge (so system can take care of its own), so you file your suit in federal court under one or more of the civil rights statutes that I quoted above. By the way, re your last reply, no, not your human rights commission but your legislative body should pass the appropriate legislation (the above quoted statutes with appropriate substitution).

    Now on to Alf:

    “I love the way republicans try to lump themserlves in with the black people of the southern states of America.”

    As I said above, the only thing missing is the sheets. The history of gerrymandering, discrimination in housing, jobs, etc., simply speak for themselves. Lastly, the claim “heritage not hate” is as absurd where you are as it is where I am and your companion claims of “victimhood” is as pathetic as that of those folk here who still speak of the War of Northern Aggression.

  • Alf

    andnowhat,

    The history of the Ardoyne includes the bombing of Frizzel’s fish shop and the subsequent murders of women and children. Is that what you mean by ‘having to fight for it’?

    When the scumbag responsible for that act of mass murder was returned to prison for his role in directing republican rioters (again fighting for it no doubt) we saw one Aidan Troy stepping forward to demand his release. Dead Protestant children clearly don’t bother him all that much.

    I’m glad that you are happy to go to the police about dissident republicans. Would you have done the same if you had information about Provo terrorism?

  • Alf

    latcheeco,

    Are you suggesting that, because I can differentiate between a pipe bomb and a hand grenade, I must be some sort of terrorist? I can assure you that I most certainly am not and never have been. As I pointed out earlier I regard all terrorists, both republican and loyalist, as low life dirt.

    I am glad that you agree with me that the Warrington bomb was a vile act carried out by vile disgusting people. For a minute there it looked as if you thought that loyalists had some sort of monopoly on causing pain to children.

  • Alf

    “As I said above, the only thing missing is the sheets. The history of gerrymandering, discrimination in housing, jobs, etc., simply speak for themselves. Lastly, the claim “heritage not hate” is as absurd where you are as it is where I am and your companion claims of “victimhood” is as pathetic as that of those folk here who still speak of the War of Northern Aggression.”

    Slappy,

    All that was missing was:

    The right to vote

    The right to use the same toilets

    The right to sit anywhere they wanted on the bus

    The right to attend the same schools (though they insisted on not doing so)

    The right to attend the same churches

    The right to eat in the same restaurants

    etc

    Try and get a bit of perspective will you? Trying to compare yourselves with people who suffered from real discrimination simply makes you look idiotic and childish.

  • Cynic2

    “Even Brice later admitted that the letter was a mistake”

    …… it represented the views taken by the Commission as a whole at the time. If it was a mistake it was because some Commissioners diametrically opposed to it t6hen used it to attack Brice.

    We came back again to the Point – the Commission took a position ….some Commissioners disagreed …… a subgroup of the Commissioners then funded legal action using public funds ….they lost in 3 courts through multiple hearings over 10 years

  • Cynic2

    Slappy

    In this context there is no duty of ‘sovereign immunity’ but instead a ‘positive duty’ on the state to protect Section 2 rights and other rights under ECHR.

    What this case showed was that the European Court of Human Rights showed was that the Police (ie the State) fully discharged its duties in a fair and impartial manner. Indeed, despite all the hype and the real horror of the kids on those trips to school, not one parent or child was injured in all the time of the protest because the police operation protected them and prevented the dispute escalating into attacks on schools and churches in other areas of the city

  • andnowwhat

    |I’ll briecfly indulge you Alf.

    1. What was planned upstairs from Frizzel’s?

    2. What were those p[eople upstairs doing at that period?

    3. Are you suggesting that the attack went as planned given that Thomas Begley was blew up too?

  • Cynic2

    andnowwhat

    Ah so it was OK becase they were trying to kill Loyalsits paramilitaries.

    I have news for you …. that was murder too

  • andnowwhat

    Really Cynic?

    Check out the stats for that year….

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/chron/1993.html

    Are you suggesting that the loyalists should have gone unchecked?

    I was working in the Mater when the bomb went off and was called down from my ward (as were many, many staff that day) to help out in A&E and saw the suffering of the victims first hand.

    That said, that was not the intention. The intention was to thwart, to some extent, one of the darkest periods here

  • Damian o’Loan,

    The Children’s Commissioner, yes, good point.

    The ‘precedent” (if that’s what it can be called) re the wider concept of police liability was actually set over 12 years by the ECHR in the Osman v UK case: http://www.worldlii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/1998/101.html

    The judgement of which brings us back again to the question of the NIHRC’s competence and level of legal expertise in deciding initially to get involved with this particular case

  • Nunoftheabove

    andnowwhat

    To my mind, the fish shop bomb can only have been planned in two ways, the assumption being that Mr Begley himself wasn’t in any respect suicidal.

    Firstly, either there was to have been a very very short warning (if any) in order to capture the (by then gone) folks upstairs, in which case the plain calculation was that significant civilian casualties would be inevitably resulting from those downstairs or outside (given the type and size of device used, the time of day/week etc); or

    Leave sufficient warning to enable ‘civilians’ to leave the area unharmed which would (had they been there at the time anyway) have given mad dog and his boyos ample to get away before it went off anyway, thus recording no enemy kills – a failed operation, in their terms.

    The latter only makes sense if the device was intended to have been used as a very loud and not very subtle or clever warning to the UFF and that doesn’t feel credible to me. My guess is that they figured they would hopefully catch a few UFFers by (if they were ‘lucky’) bringing the roof down on them and, yeah, probably take a few non-combatants with them. I’m unaware of any alternative explanation for what happened and so I am left with the thought that the planning, approval and execution of this operation tells us quite a lot about the esteem in which civilian life – in this case specifically protestant civilian life – was held by Begley and Kelly, their commanders and perhaps, at least in their minds, about the thoughts and feelings of a critical mass of their supporters, at least locally.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “That’s why I wouldn’t have gone that route, as the “system” tends to take care of its own”

    I’m not sure I’d include the ECHR as part of “the system” or that it would necessarily regard the RUC/PSNI as its “own”…but that’s peripheral here.

    You’re confirming again that within the present “system”, there was very little chance of this case succeeding and that this would have been a fact known (or should have been known) by the NIHRC at the start of their involvement with this case?

  • andnowwhat

    Nunoftheabove, I believe that the “fuse” was a short one of 11 seconds or so.

    If they were willing to murder the customers and staff of the shop they could have thyrown a bomb in. Too long a “fuse” would have given those that were upstairs a chance to escape.

    BTW I would be interested when the bomb was meant to be set off, before or after the shop was cleared. 11 seconds would have, in no way, been enough time to get the staff out.

  • Nunoftheabove

    andnowhat

    That’s my point, either way the consideration must almost certainly have been:

    ‘get the ones upstairs and if we take a few out downstairs then so be it’ ; or

    ‘no point leaving a warning for the ones downstairs as that’ll give the ones upstairs the chance to get away’.

    The idea that they could have cleared the downstairs and outside in 11 seconds, get away themselves and take out the ones upstairs in ‘sugical’ fashion is either hugely optimistic, wishful thinking and/or evidence of appalling planning and/or execution.

    As I say, I think it’s more likely to have been planned on the basis that ‘if there’s a few civilian casualities, no big deal’.

  • Cynic2

    andnowwaht

    So you still support murder then?

    So long as its murdering themuns to stop them murdering oursuns of course – nothing personal like

  • andnowwhat

    What would you have reccommended then Cynic? Seriously, what should have been dome given the the stats I posted?

    Anyway, this has sod all to do with the topic.

  • Neil

    The bomb was intended to be activated, a warning given by the bombers leaving the shop, (presumably along the lines of ‘There’s a bomb! Run like fuck’).

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2000/aug/05/northernireland.johnmullin

    Now obviously that’s Sean Kelly’s account, which won’t be good enough for some people, but given the scenario it’s the only account. So the idea had been to give a warning and take out UDA leaders. As always playing with explosives can go wrong and in this instance it clearly detonated prematurely, not allowing for a warning and killing Thomas Begley. What this has to do with Holy Cross I’m not so sure.

    It’s depressing though to read all the mitigation provided by Loyalist apologists. Someone above mentioned the Orange Order marching past Sean Graham’s bookies on the Ormeau, and I’m sure many of us have seen the pictures of the nice Orangeman holding up 5 fingers, helpfully reminding the locals of the 5 brothers/sons/fathers murdered by the UDA (awful good Christians these Orangemen, helpfully reminding people of these murders).

    Funnily enough when the locals of the Lower Ormeau decided to attempt to prevent the OO marching past while glorifying the murderer Bratty who had killed these very people’s relatives, the RUC managed to get them off the road. Many of us will have watched that too, people getting their skulls battered in by the police so that the OO can march past these people’s homes with the banners commemorating the very man who killed so many of the residents family.

    Funnily enough then, the cops couldn’t manage to do the same thing to the Loyalists of Holy Cross, who are an embarrassment to Loyalism and humanity at large, and when the people try to walk, lawfully along the road and are attacked we have some characters on here explaining to us that a) the thugs/bombers of Loyalism and b) the wicked parents wilfully walking along ‘their’ road, with their kids are equivalent to each other. Bollocks.

    The Loyalists involved were utter scum, they should have been battered off the road (as Republicans are when they try to claim ownership over a road), and the parents allowed to go about their business.

    Nowhere else would anyone suggest that because a bunch of criminal thugs take over a portion of a road and attack anyone using it of whom they do not approve, that the local population must either a) use a different road to go about their lawful business or b) be accused of being equal to the criminal thugs attacking civilian children. Absolutely moronic.

    There is no excuse. Loyalism was wrong and was portrayed as such globally, but then that’s really always been Loyalism’s problem. When we get threads asking why all the arts tend to portray Loyalists as the bad guy, it’s because of the bone headed protests at Chapels, or attacks against children being beamed around the planet, and all the while the usual suspects are available to defend the indefensible. But, but, but it was themmuns what started it so they did so they did. Keep up the good work though. It makes Republicans seem all the more reasonable to actual real British people (from England) and Americans etc. who by and large profess to find Loyalist/Unionist people very very strange indeed.

    PS – the ‘bomb wasn’t aimed at the kids it was aimed at the police’ bit is the funniest, downright most idiotic post I’ve ever seen on this site, January it may be but that’s in the running for the most retarded comment of 2011, and suspect it will score highly come December.

  • andnowwhat

    Hi Neil.

    It was I who brought up the lower Ormeau to compare how the police treated the local protesters there to the “loyalists” at the Holy Cross protest.

    I think it was Alf who brought up the Shankhill bombing by associating it with the people from Ardoyne.

    “Actually, this is what he said…”The history of the Ardoyne includes the bombing of Frizzel’s fish shop and the subsequent murders of women and children. Is that what you mean by ‘having to fight for it’?”.

  • Oneill

    “The ‘precedent” (if that’s what it can be called) re the wider concept of police liability was actually set over 12 years by the ECHR in the Osman v UK case: http://www.worldlii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/1998/101.html

    The judgement of which brings us back again to the question of the NIHRC’s competence and level of legal expertise in deciding initially to get involved with this particular case.

    I fail to see your reasoning here –Osman related to police having a duty of care to Osman under very different circumstances and the Court found that no such duty of care existed. In that case the police had no reasonable grounds to suspect that a school teacher would kill the childs fatherand attempt to kill the boy. However had the school teacher been standing out in the street wearing holloween masks and throwing missiles and shouting obscenities which amounted to hate crime then Osman might be relevant.

    The NIHRC absolutely should have been involved –but not after first sabotaging the case potential.

  • Reader

    andnowwhat: What would you have reccommended then Cynic? Seriously, what should have been dome given the the stats I posted?
    If you knew when and where there was going to be a terrorist meeting, you could always let the police know. They were arresting loyalists quite often in that era. After all, it couldn’t have turned out any worse than it did.
    On the other hand, since the IRA blew up the building without killing any (other) terrorists, maybe their information was complete rubbish.
    By the way, do you think that a similar operation by loyalists against republicans would be equally legitimate?

  • andnowwhat

    By the way, do you think that a similar operation by loyalists against republicans would be equally legitimate?

    Reader

    When you join an armed group all bets are off IMO.

    You may also remember that this was a period when loyalists were discovcered to have security force files given to them.

    RE. the meeting. As I recall, they changed the venue.

    As for informing the security forces, are you serious?

  • Cynic2

    Andnowhwat

    You really do get it do you. Murdering people is wrong and doing a sectarian headcount to justify it is morally indefensible.

    What else could they have done? Stopped the killing perhaps? Given information to the police? Entered peace negotiations? …… All those things were open to everyone but they didn’t take them.

    You claim to have worked in a medical profession. I hope to God I am never in the Mater waiting for you to put my drip up or set up the syringe driver. Would you be doing the same head count:

    ” Seven Catholics have died today but only 5 prods …..time to even things up.”

  • andnowwhat

    Yeah Cynic, that’s how it it worked. I read the patient’s notes to find out what religion they were to decide whether to warm my finger up or not before I stuck it up their arse.

  • Reader

    andnowhat: When you join an armed group all bets are off IMO.
    Actually, I was thinking you might have noticed the problem of collateral damage – i.e. innocent civilians within the blast radius.
    In fact, as I expect you might recall, loyalists have indeed claimed that some operations that only killed innocent bystanders were aimed at the IRA. I wasn’t impressed with that justification, and I bet you weren’t either.

  • Cynic2

    “I read the patient’s notes to find out what religion they were to decide whether to warm my finger up or not before I stuck it up their arse.”

    Couldn’t you just tell by how close their eyes were?

  • andnowwhat

    If any of you want to start a thread on the Shankhill bomb I’ll gladly talk about it there.

    I am as guilty as any after stupidly falling for Alf’s diversion but we need this back on topic

  • Hi Christy,

    I fail to see your reasoning here –Osman related to police having a duty of care to Osman under very different circumstances and the Court found that no such duty of care existed

    the Osman case was actually quoted by the ECHR in its judgement here, particularly in relation to the claim under Article 3. It’s the more general concept of giving guidelines as to whether the police acted with due diligence and care.

    Should the NIHRC have got involved at all?
    Yes, but with a lot more “head” and a lot less “heart”. It was a very low chance of having any kind of success against the police, for the reasons given by myself and others here. That fact was known right at the beginning of the case.

    The alternative possibility, as mentioned by Slappy (ie action against identifiable culprits on the loyalist side), made much more sense… except for the fact that the NIHRC is generally reluctant to get involved in action which may rattle cages within the *community*. Much easier to “protect” human rights against the abstract State in NI than to go after those real individuals who bear the real responsibility.

  • Hi Oneill

    I have not read the ECHR Judgment but had been familiar with Osman so will check out that relationship.

    I would agree with you that a little more head than heart should have applied –even from the acting solicitors I would imagine -I am not so sure that the Chief Constable held no liability? I think that the ploice should have moved the protestors to a safer distance as they were prone to throwing things –so on health and safety grounds alone that would have been prudent. I also think the police failed to collect forensic evidence which was available and would have lead to secure prosecutions of “identifiable culprits” as that would be the proper means to identify those culprits.

    Perhaps in the initial stages the Familes involved may have considered pursuing the “identifiable culprits” but without proper evidence they would have stood even less chance of success than they had with the police –had the police gathered the incriminating evidence which was available, and relevant, then the police might not have been subject to legal challenge. So the police did fail those who were at the receiving end, or at least were the targets of thrown objects, be that police, parents, or children.

    I think the NIHRC’s involvment became one of PR risk managment. To have dropped this case after the initial mess they made of it would have sealed their fate for the scam that the Commission is. So regardless of any likelyhood of failure through the Courts the NIHRC locked themselves in to continuing to handle the case in the way that it has done because to have pulled out would have damaged their reputation within the Nationalist community irrepairably. The Commission operates on a presumed ‘due’ respect that it has not, and, does not deserve in its attempt at, both, trying to be relevant and equally useless at the same time –it has the qualities and equillibrium as a quango of excellance.

  • Cynic2

    “I am not so sure that the Chief Constable held no liability?”

    Unfortunately the NI High Court, UK Supreme Court and now Strasbourg disagree with you

  • Cynic2 I siad ‘held’ no liability not ‘holds’ no liability –had the case been handled a little differently at the initial stage, which can be the make or break of any case, in regard to direction and means then things might have been very different…