Serious issues of independence and effectiveness in the Police Ombudsman’s Office

Sinn Féin’s policing spokesman Gerry Kelly has added his voice to calls for the removal of Al Hutchinson as Police Ombudsman and restoration of independence and effectiveness in the office.

Barry McCaffrey, over at The Detail, has seen the draft version of a Criminal Justice Inspectors report on the Office of the Police Ombudsman (OPONI) and it appears to make for damning reading. This follows swiftly on from the the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) publishing a report on Human Rights and Dealing with Historic Cases – A Review of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland back in June.

For those interested in the headline conclusions, the CAJ report deals with the interpretative treatments given to the term ‘collusion’ in outputs from the various state organs investigating and reporting on ‘historic’ cases, generally involving fatalities, since the late 1960s. Specifically, the CAJ report highlights the absence of an operational definition of ‘collusion’. In examples cited in their report, a recurrent finding that an evidential test for ‘collusion’ does not appear to be met is mapped against continuous shifts in the contours of what is deemed to characterise ‘collusion’, consistently tilting the weight of the argument away from ‘collusion’ as a conclusion. Conventionally, this has facilitated a publicised finding of no collusion which has inevitably translated into the OPONI’s elevator pitch as to favourable overall outcomes of individual investigations.

Giving a perspective from someone with a close interest in the OPONI outputs, Ciarán MacAirt provided his personal response to the CAJ report at the time of publication. His research, as a family member of a victim of the McGurks Bar bombing, provides a humbling lesson for those who would like to believe that the professionals who recently ‘investigated’ the loyalist bombing produced a competent and considered account.

Beneath the headlines, the CAJ report plots a less sensationalist line. It traces the institutional origins of the Office of the Police Ombudsman (and includes the HET), not to the Peace Process, but to compliance with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and various judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (specifically Jordan v UK). A core issue in Article 2 is consistent and impartial application of justice. On the basis of the CAJ report, operational consistency appears to be absent from the OPONI, particularly with respect to the loose deployment of terminology such as ‘collusion’ to avoid conclusions which would not be favourable to the police. While, in some respects, the CAJ report may appear innocuous, it may be the opening move in bringing the UK government back to the European Courts of Human Rights for its continued failure to implement Article 2.

, , , , , , ,

  • “restoration of independence and effectiveness in the office.”

    Which one, John? Your little pot-pourri of the usual suspects following this leak puts a question mark over the Criminal Justice Inspectorate as well the Office of the Police Ombudsman. Is there any public office that hasn’t got an agenda? Were you unable to detect a Unionist or an Others reaction?

  • oracle

    Hi John,

    Where has Gerry Kelly et al been all this time…… Since Nula O’Loan left her job it has been a position unfilled.
    I have raised Hutchinsons lack of impartiality on several threads on Slugger over an extended period of time, law firms in Belfast and further were briefing journalists for years but their papers run scared of comment.
    The media were aware for a long time that he was too close to the state and the Police to be in such an important position but turned a blind eye…. and so did Sinn Fein this little Stormont “don’t rock the boat mentality” must stop.

  • oracle

  • Reader

    John Ó Néill: On the basis of the CAJ report, operational consistency appears to be absent from the OPONI, particularly with respect to the loose deployment of terminology such as ‘collusion’ to avoid conclusions which would not be favourable to the police.
    While there’s a desperate need for a standardised definition of ‘collusion’, it’s politically sensitive, so it’s not a job I would leave in the hands of a pressure group like CAJ.

  • sonofstrongbow

    It’s laughable for a gather up like CAJ to complain about others having a partisan agenda. Let’s have someone, oh I don’t know perhaps the RUC Retired Officers Association, carry out an investigation into CAJ history, staff make up, employment practices, funding etc. Now that would be a report worth the read.

  • Neil

    Have a read at the Detail article there son of strongbow, CAK aren’t the only people now pointing the finger, in fact the list is very, very long including a sizeable number of people from within the (I can’t believe he’s not an) Ombudsman’s office.

    It’s clear that he’s presided over a small cabal within the office who take it upon themselves to alter previously agreed for publication reports to remove blame from the police (and fucks up the names of the people involved in the process),

    You should consider how the knee jerk reaction you suffer from to leap to the defence of the indefensible just because themmuns do the opposite might leave you looking a little bit stupid when the facts (which can be viewed on the Detail article) come in in full technicolour, as they will do within the next few months. I’d be surprised if Big Al’s still here to see that event given his own staff, the politicians and now a number of different organisations are pointing out his complete lack of independence from the former RUC.

  • Neil

    *CAJ that was btw.

  • Cynic2

    What seems strange to me is that CAJ and their acolytes only ever seem interested in allegations of state “collusion” with Loyalists and not with PIRA or SF. Now why would that be?

    What about those who have literally gotten away with murder but now hold public officers and seem to be protected species? Has the Ombudsman ever actually investigated any cases involving them? Answers on the back of a postage stamp ……

  • granni trixie

    It is clear that the CAJ for its own (probably political ) agenda is out to ‘get’ the current Ombudsman. It seemed to want to influence those who had to decide if his contract was to be renewed. Now the Detail joins in. What have they got in common? Each are funded by Chuck Feeney (via Martin OBrien/At. Philanthropies).

    However despite my lack of trust in the judgement of the CAJ, I do not dismiss the value of looking at the work of the Om. Office. – but feel that one might draw fairer and more useful conclusions if one were more open than the interpretations articulated by the CAJs/Detail.
    From what I read it does look like there needs to be more clarity as to the use of the Office’s resources to investigate the past and it seems narrow minded to think that replacing one person is what’s neede. Its never one person.

  • Mike the First

    “In examples cited in their report, a recurrent finding that an evidential test for ‘collusion’ does not appear to be met is mapped against continuous shifts in the contours of what is deemed to characterise ‘collusion’, consistently tilting the weight of the argument away from ‘collusion’ as a conclusion.”

    So, like a mirror image of the CAJ’s approach then?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well, This is a CJI report. What axe do they have to grind?

  • oracle

    Granny Trixie

    People weren’t out to get Hutchinson… he got himself over and over again.
    If you believe in the improvement of any society then there must be a fair and IMPARTIAL watchdog for all aspects of possible disputes

  • Neil

    Some info on CJINI

    http://www.cjini.org/AboutUs/Background-History.aspx

    The review concluded that in the political and institutional context of Northern Ireland envisaged by the Belfast Agreement, the balance of arguments favoured the creation of a single, independent criminal justice inspectorate.

    So the sneaky Brits set up an independent body for the sole purpose of making themselves look bad? I think not GT. Here is what the (independent public body, financed by the most sinister of people, i.e. the government) had to say (in agreementwith CAJ):

    Ombudsman reports were altered or rewritten to exclude criticism of police with no explanation

    Senior ombudsman officials demanded to be disassociated from investigation reports after their original findings were dramatically altered without reason

    Ombudsman staff investigating some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles believe key intelligence has been deliberately withheld from them

    CJI inspectors uncovered major “inconsistencies” in ombudsman investigations of the Loughinisland, McGurks and Claudy atrocities

    That being the tip of the iceberg as you well know having read the article.

    How independent do you think the Ombudsman can be when many of his staff are seen to be socialising with the people they are supposedly investigating?

    And how do you explain his altering previously ‘agreed for publication’ reports arbitrarily to remove any suggestion of wrongdoing by the RUC?

    He will go, he has to as the Ombudsman needs the confidence of the public or we may as well go back to the foolproof system of having the cops investigate themselves. The sooner he goes the less time will be spent re-investigating his whitewashes.

  • Reader

    Neil, the stuff you put in italics was quotes from the article, not from the report. For instance, where you quoted: “CJI inspectors uncovered major ‘inconsistencies’ in ombudsman investigations”, the report actually said “There was little consistency in the processes for managing investigations…”. Comparison of the intro from the article with the actual quotes from the report always suggest that “The Detail” is sensationalising the report. Any idea why?

  • Neil

    Those italicised points were preceded by the following:

    However The Detail can now reveal that an investigation, carried out by Criminal Justice Inspector (CJI) Dr Michael Maguire, has concluded that:

    So if you say that’s inaccurate the Detail will presumably have questions to answer. However the report isn’t to be published ’til September as I understand it, so it’s impossible to quote directly.

    However, like 99% of people here I can only comment on the information I actually have, that being that the CJI has concluded that the Ombudsman has lost his independence and that his work to date is being called into question. Whenever the report is published we can compare the two but until then I have no further information other than what’s already published.

  • Reader

    Neil: So if you say that’s inaccurate the Detail will presumably have questions to answer. However the report isn’t to be published ’til September as I understand it, so it’s impossible to quote directly.
    Except that after the first few paragraphs of the article, that’s just what the Detail proceeded to do. They probably know that’s beyond the attention span of most of their readers. (Am I being cynical here?). Fortunately, I was a little bit more determined. Their bullet points are highly sensationalised compared with the quotes from the (draft) report.

  • Cynic2

    “Their bullet points are highly sensationalised”

    Never!!!!

  • Cynic2

    Now the really interesting points in all this are:

    1 who had an advance copy of the draft report?
    2 who leaked it?
    3 why?

    The Detail is clearly spinning this for its own purposes but it is clear that someone has it in for Al and has had access to this report.

    We can only speculate on the answers to these questions but we are clearly all being manipulated. As we know from other reports and published material, the Ombudsman’s office seems to be a rag bag of competing factions.

    Neil and others take one interpretation of this. However, another may be that some factions in the office totally lack objectivity and have to be reigned in in the interests of justice and fairness. Equally, reports signed off seem to have been altered to criticize the police because of pressure from relatives. That is just as bad as the reverse.

    None of us know the whole truth non this but what is clear that the whole office now needs shaken up and cleared out and that vat the moment we can have no confidence in anything it produces

  • Neil

    Except that after the first few paragraphs of the article, that’s just what the Detail proceeded to do.

    Yes they have the report. I gleamed that piece of information from the article. They can quote from it verbatim (because they have it), I can’t (because I don’t).

    They probably know that’s beyond the attention span of most of their readers. (Am I being cynical here?). Fortunately, I was a little bit more determined.

    I think you’re being a bit generous towards yourself there, no offence. The fact that they have a leaked copy of the report and they have quoted from it is ‘beyond the attention of their readers’? I doubt it, it’s the cornerstone of the entire article and the writer explicitly states as much in the article, so no great mystery solved that wouldn’t be solveable by anyone who can read English. Not much determination required either as all this information is pretty near the top.

    Their bullet points are highly sensationalised compared with the quotes from the (draft) report.

    I disagree. Compare the following. First the bullet point:

    Ombudsman reports were altered or rewritten to exclude criticism of police with no explanation

    Then the direct quote:

    “It is unclear why the report was changed but following a meeting on May 24, 2010 involving the Police Ombudsman, Senior Director of Investigations, Director of History and Director of Communications a further report was redrafted by the Director of Communications at the dictation of the Director of History.

    “This report was substantially different in content and findings to the one that existed in early May 2010.”
    It added: “The case illustrates a process operating by which a report which has been redrafted several times with no changes to the findings can be amended in a short space of time to provide completely different outcomes.

    “In this instance the draft outcomes seen by inspectors were substantially different from those communicated to families earlier in the process and were less critical of police actions.”

    That to me would be the most damning allegation and the direct quote appears to bear it out. The Ombudsman had reports altered to be less critical of the RUC.

  • John Ó Néill

    @Reader – with reference to defining collusion – CAJ don’t do that in the report – they reference Corry and Stevens and point up the absence of a consistent definition that can be used as a benchmark (which is what it is criticising OPONI for). In some ways the definition itself isn’t important as long as the same one is consistently applied.

    @Oracle – I don’t know what has been going on behind the scenes (i.e. whether this is Kelly going public with comments that have been long made in private I can’t say), but presumably Hutchinson was given sufficient time under his own watch to put his stamp on things.

  • Neil

    Cynic,

    Equally, reports signed off seem to have been altered to criticize the police because of pressure from relatives.

    The report in question was altered by the Ombudsman to be less critical of the RUC. The second report published was actually (according to the article we’re discussing) the original article that had been finalized and approved for publication but which had been altered by the Ombudsman’s office to be less critical of the RUC. Here’s the quote from the article:

    Inspectors also found that an original report into the McGurk’s Bar atrocity had been altered to reduce criticism of the police.
    The report had to be reverted back to its original version after criticism by the families of the 15 victims.

    So will you accept that the Ombudsman had altered a report to be less critical of the RUC and got caught with his fingers in the till and had to change it back (to the agreed for publication version that he altered) to save his skin?

    Or do you wanty to hold out for the actual report next month?

  • Cynic2

    “the definition itself isn’t important as long as the same one is consistently applied”

    This only makes sense if you assume that everything is collusion …I am sure that you wouldn’t do that

  • Cynic2

    “the original article that had been finalized and approved for publication ”

    …approved by whom? Had the Ombudsman approved it or one of his staff?

    …. if the Ombudsman did approve the original then there is a real question why he later changed it and what made him change it. There must have been some reasons so what did he say to CJNI?

    …. if he did not approve the original then there is a different set of questions to answer.

    The bottom line is that no-one – police, relatives or public – can now trust the Office. However, to blame it all on the Ombudsman is nonsense.It look like it is a cesspit of factions rent apart by infighting.

    The wider issue is, what is the Office doing about today’s complaints about police?.So much effort goes into the past that its performance on current issues is abysmal

  • sonofstrongbow

    Close to the point of all this there. For Irish Republicans it will always be the Royal Ulster Collusionists. I suspect that it makes them feel a little better about having their ‘army’ soundly trashed by those self same peelers.

    Poor Al is just another who didn’t get the memo to baa the blackb……… strapline. He may go just to keep the Stormont ship afloat. Back in Canada he can chuckle at the likes of Gerry ‘bomber’ Kelly calling for his resignation.

    Btw Neil you got it right first time – CAK. The Detail simply makes it CAK number 2 🙂 See what I did there?

  • GRMA, John 🙂

    We are obviously pushing for the swift publication of the Criminal Justice Inspection (CJI) report straight away as this latest report was “leaked”. My immediate response was to question the timing of the leak, coming before the return of our politicos to Stormont.
    It should be remembered that another independent report into the Office of the Police Ombudsman by Mr. McCusker of the Community Relations Council (CRC) (BBC news report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-13978341) was released at the end of Stormont before the summer recess. Its timing obviously suited no-one but the authorities as it was damning too. It was not properly debated and was released with a fizzle.
    So this CJI report follows not only the CAJ review but also this CRC investigation. ALL are damning and ALL attest to what we have argued for years regarding the continued treatment of our families.
    This CJI leak though is potentially crippling as it casts a cold light on the PSNI and its influence on the statutory body we have as a safeguard to hold the police accountable. That safeguard is there because we, and I’m speaking for my perceived community here, are still learning to trust the police. Throw into this mix an influence within the PSNI of an old guard RUC and we can question why some of these historic cases are being (mis)managed in such a way. (At its most benign) There are senior members of the PSNI who are suffering from residual corporate memory from their time in the RUC George Cross. Potentially, it was this influence that has tried to sanitize and whitewash reports such as McGurk’s or Loughinisland (and failed). This is why we need this CJI report published forthwith.
    Interesting to add to John’s post (he knows this well as he knows all about the history of the subject) two further points for any legal eagles out there:
    In the (finally) published McGurk’s report by the Ombudsman – we are entering our third with the HET – Mr Hutchinson makes a ruling on “collusion”. It was obvious that he was using a different test for this than he used in the Claudy report (a definition which Nuala O’ Loan used – ie Cory/Stevens incorporated). Nevetherless he couldn’t tell me in private nor did he publish it with the report the definition he had invented. So we have a Police Ombudsman making a “definitive” ruling on something he cannot/will not define! (The CAJ has reported that collusion in our case was more damning than in the Claudy case).
    Another iunteresting point folowing from Jordan v UK and relating to article 2 ECHR compliance is that the next of kin should not “lead” investigations by their own archive research and salient evidence finds. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what a judge thinks of our research then (http://www.themcgurksbarmassacre.com/research.html) 🙂

  • sonofstrongbow

    “old guard RUC”, “residual corporate memory”, “whitewash”. The usual suspects eh? Whereas I for one am not surprised that Irish Republicans are still banging on about those rascally RUC folks, why would you be given that they spent forty odd years murdering cops, it is a bit groundhog day.

    A solution is available. Let them write up their own reports. After all typing out ‘RUC did it’ won’t use up much ink. It might make them happy, but I doubt it. What is the opposite terminology to a ‘securocrat’? A whingeoist perhaps.

    Btw my “perceived” community are more than happy with the RUC’ s performance and legacy (although it could have been given more of a free hand at times). That the force still excites such odium in Republicans is just icing on the cake.

  • Mark McGregor

    strongbow,

    You make yourself look sillier than usual when you dismiss one of the victim’s family with such utter gibberish.

  • Cynic2

    “CJI leak though is potentially crippling as it casts a cold light on the PSNI and its influence on the statutory body we have as a safeguard to hold the police accountable”

    Really. Just where does the report say anything that supports that?

    “there are senior members of the PSNI who are suffering from residual corporate memory from their time in the RUC George Cross”

    Oh go on …do tell us who and what they did and when. As it stands this is gibberish.

    “he couldn’t tell me in private nor did he publish it with the report the definition he had invented.”

    Why do you have such access that you think you should have access to advice ‘in private’ ? You seem to assume that the Ombudsman is your creature. He’s supposed to be an independent investigator. On one hand you accuse PSNI of undue influence and then seem to try and exert it yourself?

    ” it was this influence that has tried to sanitize and whitewash reports ”

    Where is the evidence. Exactly what was done, when and by whom? Lots of waffle. No specific evidence or facts. And what of the influence from the relatives who seem to want to write their own reports. What role have they played? For example, why was the McGurk’s report rewritten again to accommodate their concerns?

  • Cynic2

    “You make yourself look sillier than usual when you dismiss one of the victim’s family with such utter gibberish.”

    Disagreeing with your world view doesn’t make it gibberish – usually the reverse

  • Mark McGregor

    Cynic,

    Describing someone writing on the murder of a grandparent as a ‘whingeoist’ is top drawer gibberish in my book.

  • John Ó Néill

    Just to follow up Ciarán’s point (@9.17am) – there are two distinct issues here:

    Article 2 compliance would probably be met by merely sticking to the same definition of ‘collusion’ each time you want to discuss the issue (and note CAJ don’t define it – they point out that Corry/Stevens provide definitions that OPONI could have simply followed for consistency). As I pointed out earlier – the actual definition itself is irrelevant as long as the same one is always used – in that regard, where you decide to set the bar in terms of what is accepted as an act of collusion is a different debate entirely.

    Secondly (and Ciarán may disagree with me on this point) – identifying ‘collusion’ is somewhat of a white elephant since ‘collusion’ is not an actual offence in itself (the real offences are more likely to be conspiracy to pervert the course of justice etc). In that respect the whole emphasis on collusion may have become a distraction since it doesn’t place the discussion into the context of a potential test for prosecution. In effect, the evidence in the HET and other reports into individual events has regularly found evidence that the RUC and British Army failed to fully or properly investigate many loyalist actions that led to fatalities or failed to act on intelligence to prevent such attacks. I think, rather than some grand corporate conspiracy, this was more due to the politics of many RUC officers and loyalist paramilitaries converging sufficiently than individual acts of ‘collusion’ (e.g. by conspiring to ignore the forensic evidence provided by the Army and, at a political level, to then mislead as to who had bombed McGurks Bar thus preventing the perpetrators being brought to justice, enabling them to remain free to carry out further attacks – nevermind trying to blacken the names of those who died by stating that a bomb was being kept inside the bar to be used elsewhere). When direct rule came in London had an opportunity to wipe the slate clean rather than inherit the legacy of failures like the McGurks Bar investigation or Widgery. That it chose to pursue a continuation of existing policies again could have been changed at any stage, particularly over the last fifteen years (e.g. at the setting up of PSNI). By continuing to defend the indefensible (as the UK government did by spending so much money rather than merely admit to the disaster that was Widgery) OPONI is continuing to associate the police with some of the significant (and very damaging) failings of the past. And anyone that wants to proclaim the greatness of the RUC – go and look at the terminology that recurs in the HET and other reports about incompetence, failings and oversights (often the general finding rather than ‘collusion’). Dealing with incidents via the HET and Corry models only works up to the point where their cumulative weight is more damning that any individual case could ever be. I think it could be argued, in a legal sense, that by continuing to try and avoid the truth the OPONI itself is continuing to conspire to pervert the course of justice, tethering itself firmly to the legacy of 1971 rather than providing a historic spotlight on it from 2011.

  • sonofstrongbow

    MMcG,

    He was not “writing on the murder of a grandparent”. He was making unfounded allegations against PONI and PSNI officers who had served in the RUC. This is fine and dandy for anyone to do if they so wish. However is is unrealistic, and frankly a little distasteful, to make political points and have the likes of you run defence demanding no challenge on foot of the writer being a relative of a victim.

    Now on a personal note I don’t give a flying f… what’s in your book and knowing something of your antecedents I’d much prefer for you to ignore my “gibberish”. Heaven forfend that some reality slips into your wee world.

  • Cynic2

    “Describing someone writing on the murder of a grandparent as a ‘whingeoist’ is top drawer gibberish”

    Offensive perhaps – I wouldn’t use that language in that context. But he was making a point about the tone of the comments

  • Mark McGregor

    Cynic,

    You give whatever cover you like to an annonymous mouth on an internet site being pretty abusive to a family member of a innocent murder victim writing on the case.

    I’ve had my spake.

  • Lionel Hutz

    John,

    I think your second point is very important with regards to these investigations. It seems to me that people from the Nationalist/Republican community believed that the RUC to varying degrees did not act with due diligience in preventing and investigating terrorist attacks on Nationalist people.

    In relation to actions prior to killings, at the most extreme end, people believed that the RUC and to some extent the army actively conspired with loyalist paramiliataries to murder. Some people believe that this occured in the RUC from a corporate level and some woudl believe it was down to the actions of individual RUC officers who were sympathetic to loyalists. At the other end, people believe that RUC officers turned a blind eye to threats against catholics, did not adequately protect people and therefore gave Loyalist Parmalitaries the feeling that they could kill or attack with impunity.

    In relation to investigations, some believe that there were pro-active cover-ups, whitewashes and attempts to pervert the course of jsutice. Also some believe the RUC were guilty of simply not trying to investigate the murders of Nationalists by Loyalist Paramilitaries.

    There may be more examples of believed improper and illegal activities on the part of the RUC. And all of these were grouped together and described as collusion – which i would suggest was a rather poor terminology.

    Collusion became emotive and now it seems that when we go to investigate these historic cases, there is mroe focus on whether the inquiries make a finding of “collusion” or not.

    Personally I believe that there term collusion should be explicitly banished from all enquiries. I think that the report from the inquiry into Rosemary Nelson’s murder was very helpful in simply laying out what the findings are and avoiding the use of the term collusion.

    Instead, it sought to investigate the follwoing:

    “whether any wrongful act or omission by or within the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland Office, Army or other state agency facilitated her death or obstructed the investigation of it, or whether attempts were made to do so; whether any such act or omission was intentional or negligent; whether the investigation of her death was carried out with due diligence; and to make recommendations”

    Its just very unfortunate that other commentators tried to map those findings against different definitions of collusion to get their desired result. Most sickening was Paterson’s speech and his conclusion that:

    “it is clear that just as Lord Saville found no evidence of a conspiracy by the British state, and just as Lord MacLean found no evidence of state collusion in the murder of Billy Wright, so this panel finds no evidence of any act by the state which directly facilitated Rosemary Nelson’s murder.”

    What would be useful would be for a set definition of four or five different potential findings. For example:

    Actions/Omissions which directly facilitate a murder
    Actions/Omissions which indirectly facilitated a murder
    Wilful Actions/Omissions which obstructed an investigation of a murder.
    Unwilful failings which negatively affected an investigations.

    All of these are important. All of these would be the type of compaint that came to be unhelpfully grouped by Republican groups under the umbrella term of Collusion.

  • John Ó Néill

    Lionel, to some extent, I think this has been approached wrongly by republicans (in general). If you want to eat an elephant you can only do it one bite at a time. Putting the case for ‘collusion’ is complex. But reducing individual incidents to criminal acts like perverting the course of justice, conspiracy to murder, manslaughter etc amounts to a legal assessment of the relationship between RUC officers and loyalists. Collusion is a political judgement and debating it has been a distraction whereas establishing the criminal nature of what went on is more achieveable.

  • Cynic2

    Mark

    Calm down dear.

    Your breathy support on here for anything anti Government or anti British is well known so I will give you a by ball on that one. The sad fact of life is that people are entitled to have a different point of view and to express it, irrespective of who they disagree with. I know that shocking to you but hell that’s life.

    As for ‘giving cover’, coming form someone who posts some of what you put on here, that it a bit rich!

  • Cynic2

    “between RUC officers and loyalists”

    why just Loyalists? Why not the ‘links’ with Republicans too?

  • Reader

    Cynic2: why just Loyalists? Why not the ‘links’ with Republicans too?
    Careful, the first accusation of whataboutery is only minutes away.
    But of course you have actually identified a crucial test for any definition of “collusion”. It needs to include exactly the same critera for cocking up investigation of IRA murders, and running agents and informers in the IRA. Maybe once a final neutral definition of “collusion” has been reached, people will realise – as John and Lionel may be starting to suspect – that the word is useless in any legal sense, and belongs in the realm of politics.

  • Cynic2

    The Corry definition is so wide that half the posters on here would be defined as colluding with one terrorist group or another. But ‘collusion’ sounds so good.

    Ah well. Given that the poor souls are trapped by democracy in this terrible British state they need something to complain about

  • Apologies for only getting back to this now.
    Sonofstrongbow, I acknowledge that your community uphold the memory of the RUC and it is not my intention to denigrate the whole force. Nevertheless I am quite particular in its shortfalls regarding its “investigation” into the McGurk’s Bar Massacre. Rather than go into each and every failing I would simply direct you to our website as I have traced this psychological operation through RUC, Governmental and MoD archives. This is not about writing our own reports as you say but assuring the authorities (including the PSNI now) simply attest to evidence in front of them in black and white. These are their own documents and archives. Nevertheless, they were not uncovered by investigating officers of any “independent” review but by me and NGOs who represent some of the families. Straight away this could be argued as non-compliance to article 2 of the ECHR.
    This is not about Irish Republicanism (our families represent all shades) and an IRA campaign against the RUC does not have anything to do with the thread either. I do not have such odium as grave concern that “independent” investigations have been influenced/mismanaged/starved of evidence by ex-members of the RUC. If you review the service we have been given throughout the years, including the last two years, you will see why I feel that way. (Cynic 2) This is why we need to have the CJI report published straight away as part of its remit was to examine the relationship between the PSNI and PONI. This “leak” tells us that the McGurk’s report in July 10 was changed to remove criticism of the RUC. I ask simply why and by whom. It should be remembered that when this was pulled, the families got the blame for undue pressure. At the time I wrote (I reminded people here http://ciaranmacairt.com/what-we-said-about-poni-fiasco-in-july-2010/) that this negatively reflected on us when it was not our finger prints all over it. The CJI leak also tells us that a Director in OPONI believed there was an agreement not to criticize Special Branch. I have called for it to be released swiftly (North Belfast News 18.8.11) to assuage these very real concerns that seem reflected within the leak. Again, I would ask you to refer to our campaign website, the report by the CAJ, the report by the CRC and wait to read the final CJI review.
    Cynic 2 “in private” was the private presentation by OPONI the day before and the day of (yes we had less than 24 hours to review the whole report). I questioned PONI on which definition he was using and no answer was forthcoming. I re-drew his attention to Cory and Stevens and the fact that he had used a different interpretation. This was also different from the one he used in the Claudy report he had released just before the McGurk’s report. I also drew attention to the fact that nobody could tell us which definition was now being used and that this would be tested at a later stage. We all knew immediately there was a massive weakness in their finding (PONI was ruling on something he could not/would not define).
    John, you are completely correct. There has been no legal definition laid down for collusion. If it had been up to me it would not have included it in the original complaint to PONI as its definition is malleable. As you say though Article 2 compliance will be tested on the consistency of
    PONI’s usage of it. He has fallen already as he changed it for McGurk’s and Loughinisland after he the Claudy report. The usage of it in McGurk’s case greatly differs from its usage in Ballast under Mrs O’ Loan just as it differs from Mr Hutchinson’s own usage of it in Claudy.
    Many thanks, Mark, but we are well used to it by now 😉 I understand many of the differing views here but there are occasions anonymity may allow posters to give vent to a certain rage/vitriol/whataboutery.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Ciaran MacAirt,

    Your response is disingenuous in the extreme. I contend you do intend to “denigrate the whole force” (and indeed the Army and Government as well).

    Why use a term such as “residual corporate memory” if the intention is otherwise than to attack the entire organisation? I wonder what it is you believe those PSNI officers with RUC service are remembering?

    Let me be clear I support the right of any member of any victim’s family to seek answers about the circumstances of their loved one’s death or injury. However they do a disservice to that cause when they align themselves with a partisan political campaign that seeks to propagandise the past.

    The thread author references Gerry Kelly in his first sentence. Kelly, a convicted terrorist, is an individual with a desire to see a partisan rewriting of history that casts his murderous organisation as ‘soldiers’ fighting a ‘war’ rather than the criminals they in fact were. A major plank of that project is the denigration of the police. Indeed the thread author makes comments about alleged ‘collusion’ between the police and loyalists yet ignores the police use of informants within Irish Republican terrorist structures. This is less than subtle shorthand for the ‘RUC plus loyalists versus the Republicans’ myth of the Troubles.You align yourself, perhaps unwittingly, with that project by making comments that read as attacks on the “corporate” ethos of the RUC.

  • John Ó Néill

    “…a partisan rewriting of history that casts his murderous organisation as ‘soldiers’ fighting a ‘war’ rather than the criminals they in fact were.”

    Ironically, in this context, a nicely Freudian turn of phrase.

  • Indeed, John.

    sonofstrongbow our families come from all shades. We have been very particular not to align ourselves as you say. There are times when politicians (in this instance from SF/SDLP/Alliance camps) have spoken about our cause and we have been very grateful to them raising our “profile” if you will (and I hate considering our campaign in such terms but that is the relaity of it). Whether they do that for their on party-political agenda is not for me to question. I have also many, many times in the past through private missives to important representatives of the Unionist community,sought their support on this single issue. It has not been forthcoming – I would assume it is because they too were afraid that their support in this instance would be seen as an assault on the memory of the whole force and, more important than natural/social justice/historical rectitude, lose them votes. I can understand that even though I would have been more impressed if they had considered the McGurk’s cover-up rationally instead of emotionally. So I thank you of your support of victims’ campaigns but would hope that you yourself do not imprint your own political beliefs upon what they may be saying. I understand that you believe the RUC were worthy of their George Cross but I would ask you whether in this instance – beginning with the disinformation that they promulgated re the innocent civilians killed in McGurk’s and ending with their “investigation” – was FUBAR. Why did it happen though?
    Without getting bogged down in semantics – the corporate memory of which I speak is “residual” as you quote. Mere traces that may have influenced the re-writing of reports. It’s the reason why the CJI had to be dragged into the mess and it may feature in the final report. It does not denigrate each and every office of the RUC whether they are in the PSNI or not. I am merely interested in the influencers that are negative and backward-looking.
    For the record too all of society has uncomfortable truths to face. I am on record for saying that too (but I am on-the-hoof now and must go before providing a link).
    Anon 😉

  • sonofstrongbow

    Nice sidestep, or should that be two-step?

    John Oh Neill your slip is showing. Freud didn’t do wishful thinking. Do try to keep up son.

  • John Ó Néill

    @sonofstrongbow – could you read the detail on McGurks (to take just one example) or check out the HET report on the Sean Grahams murders and tell us whether you still are, and I’m quoting you here, more than happy with the RUC’ s performance and legacy (although it could have been given more of a free hand at times).?
    If you won’t engage with the actual detail you are just pursuing (and again I’m quoting you) a partisan political campaign that seeks to propagandise the past.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Yes. Unlike you I understand the wider situation within which the RUC operated. Perhaps you missed the Irish Republican campaign that operated against the police, the wider civilian population and the Army.

    Take a contemporary example of police under pressure, the GB riots. The disturbances only lasted a few days and the police stood by in the face of widespread criminality, including in one case the murder of a pensioner in London by looters. When the violence subsided the police had the space to commence effective investigations, as no doubt will the IPCC. In NI the madness lasted many many days. It is commendable that the RUC managed to cope at all, not withstanding its imperfect record at times.

    In your world no doubt the police in GB ‘colluded’ with the criminals because they did not ask the rioters to hold on a bit so the police could cordon areas and investigate each incident as it occurred. Things look different for those not wearing Republican goggles.

    When police officers, serving or retired, are brought before a court and found guilty of criminal offences, when the RUC, Army or HM Government are held responsible for anything more than understandable failings during desperate times come back and tell us about it. In the meantime don’t be surprised that your Irish Republican ‘themuns did it’ psychosis is challenged.

  • Cynic2

    I keep asking, why (Claudy excepted) are there no reports on Republican murders and collusion? Why are some figures now apparently immune to fresh investigation?

  • sonofstrongbow

    Indeed. Perhaps what is needed is a unionist inspired conspiracy industry.

    Maybe if the unionist community had voted in large numbers for a political party made up of a gather up of felons things would be different. After all in those circumstances you’d hardly be putting pressure on investigating agencies to take a wee look at players on your own team you’d want the focus elsewhere.

  • Crubeen

    Unionism is based on a conspiracy theory – the theory that the Republic was full of ravenous fenian hordes of vampires intent on heading north and sucking the lifeblood out of good unionists by forcing them all to live in a Catholic theocracy. Like just about every other conspiracy theory it was a crock of ordure.

    Excuse me if I got this wrong but didn’t a lot of Protestants vote for a party whose leader, the Rev I.R.K. Paisley, was a convicted time-served felon? And isn’t the present leader a convicted felon of a foreign state?

  • Cynic2

    I keep asking, why (Claudy excepted) are there no reports on Republican murders and collusion? Why are some figures now apparently immune to fresh investigation? And why some of the greener tinted commentators here never answer that question?

  • lamhdearg

    Cynic2
    La Mon, La Mon, La Mon, we just need to keep asking, now that ***** has partly left the building, why not start that one, don’t hold your breath.

  • Crubeen

    Cynic,

    Have you any evidence that any members of the RUC, the UDR or other State bodies colluded with Republican perpetrators of crimes?

    Such evidence, if it exists, should be submitted to PONI.

  • Cynic2

    Crubeen

    Ever heard of Stakeknife? Donaldson? ….and then there are the others who helped defeat the IRA by providing information. Under the Corry definition that may / may not have amounted to collusion

  • Cynic2

    Oh yes …. and who in their right mind would submit anything to PONI?

    And what for? I think they were right to collude with them to help undermine PIRA and protect the Article 2 rights of many other people – needed under ECHR it was their legal duty to do so.

  • Reader

    Crubeen: Unionism is based on a conspiracy theory – the theory that the Republic was full of ravenous fenian hordes of vampires intent on heading north and sucking the lifeblood out of good unionists by forcing them all to live in a Catholic theocracy.
    So if you could persuade us not to believe that we would stop being unionists?
    On a technical point. I don’t think that what you describe qualifies as a conspiracy theory. For starters, I am not sure unionists ever thought you could choose not to operate a Catholic state back in the day. No conspiracy required.