While Ireland still holds these graves…

There is nothing that casts the gulf in language and empathy between nationalists and any sort of long term reconciliation within the UK in such stark contrasts as episodes like Pat Finucane’s murder by agents of the state, and, the unfolding of the subsequent attempts by the state to simulate a process of legal and judicial redress. Both nationalism and unionism regularly struggle under the weight of their preferred histories but the diametric perspectives offered by their differing requirements for a relationship with London can often find ways to securely root those histories in relatively firm foundations.

From (inter alia) the direct actions of the state both on Bloody Sunday then via Widgery (and the expensive conceit that was the protracted delays of the Saville inquiry) to what can be construed as the retrospective co-option of the failings of the original McGurks Bar bombing investigation by the Ombudsmans office, a contemporary rather than purely historical resonance emerges. Historical or otherwise, all those who suffer due to the violence of the last decades cannot just easily put their hurt or emotions to one side as time has elapsed. The longer the interval between a failure on the part of the state, it’s uniformed forces or it’s arms lengths agents, the less likely it becomes that any form of meaningful public (or political) redress becomes possible for those at whom the state’s violence was directed. In that respect, calls for the transmutation of many of these episodes into histories as a mechanism for ‘dealing with the past’, however well considered, are still, in many respects, premature.

In my opinion, the issues with the McGurks Bar bombing (and its investigation) aren’t collusion, which is merely a convenient political forum in which to divert what should be addressed via evidential tests and prosecutions (collusion, as a crime per se, doesn’t exist). As with the Ombudsman issue, the Finucane case seems to put the UK again in contravention of Article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (and, ironically, a face-saving derogation under Article 13.2 would render the vast majority of post-1972 prosecutions illegal). Fundamentally, these cases put the UK in the same league as those states whose bombing it tends to sanction via the UN.

If you still don’t understand why Pat Finucane was murdered, then perhaps Martin Sheen can explain better than me. If you don’t understand the political fallout from state violence, and, as significantly, the perpetuation of the intent behind it in refusing to meaningfully address both it and it’s legacy, then, I’m sorry, but your understanding of injustice and what grows from it is weak.

Martin Luther King famously stated that “Peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice.” That sentiment gives new resonances to Patrick Pearse’s best known rhetorical flourish from another age. If peace is the presence of justice and Irish nationalists are to expect that justice from the UK, it still seems that:

…while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace…

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  • JOHN,

    OOps; sorry for the shouting; I missed the caps lock being on.

  • Alanbrooke

    The continued efforts to make Pat Finucane’s murder more special than anybody else’s is just plain offensive,

  • DoppiaVu

    “The continued efforts to make Pat Finucane’s murder more special than anybody else’s is just plain offensive”

    Indeed. McGuinness tells us we should shut up about his past because of how dark the past apparently was. Republicans all buy into this wholeheartedly. But of course Republicans reserve the right to dig up the past as and when is suits them.

    And this nonsense about Finucane’s death being more important is nauseating. Thousands of people killed by republican terrorists mean nothing, it seems.

  • keano10


    Describing any murder as “more special than anybody else” is a pretty strange use of vocabulary.

    Finucane’s wife and sons are the dignified, articulate and intelligent. Your comments are somewhat harsh about a decent family seeking justice.

  • Drumlins Rock

    John, what fancy words you use, a mix of legalise and almost poetry at times, but all your saying is “its the Brits fault” focusing on once again on the small minority of deaths with controversial state involvement as a cover, and worse justification, for the Republican barbarity of the past decades which you entirely ignore as usual, how about giving us a thread on how Republicans will give “meaningful public redress” to their victims.

    But what is most sinister is the threat you have included at the end, those perverse lines of Pearse that made the butchery of thousands of fellow Irishmen, women and children a romantic crusade, its seem you are saying if we don’t get our way on Finucane and the other select victims we will ensure there is no peace.

  • HeinzGuderian

    …..while Ulster still holds these graves,ireland united shall will continue to be A Notion Once Again !!!

  • sonofstrongbow

    More of the same slippery language that attempts to conflate the (alleged) actions of employees of the state with the State itself. Now God only knows why Irish Republicans can dance between ‘war’, ‘conflict’ and the multiplicity of other terms they use in a bespoke fashion to suit the argument de jour but I suspect, in their minds at least, it feeds into their tiresome narrative that it was all themuns wot done it as part of a Grand Plan by Evil John Bull to do the poor croppies down.

    Some years ago I had mail stolen by a postal worker (I suspect that he just couldn’t be arsed coming all the way out into the sticks and simply binned my post). In hindsight I should have applied Irish Republican Logic to the incident and realised that it was obviously a Royal Mail policy to deny me my correspondence for its own nefarious ends and directed its agent to achieve its goal.

  • Alanbrooke


    the last time I looked there were over 3000 families with loved ones who deserved justice. A lot of these people are less articulate than middle class lawyers with friends in high places . It’s the old Orwellian truth that some are more equal then others.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    John, the “agents of the state” language is a bit misleading, isn’t it? Do you think the UK state decided to do this? Or was it more people working for the state who were not doing what they were supposed to? I think most people would feel it was the latter.

    One of the most revealing findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry – now seemingly lost amidst the Cameron apologies and the guilt of the soldiers – was that actually, those in control of the security forces had not planned or intended it and were not in on some big conspiracy. It was an operational level atrocity.

    After some brutal tactics early on, from which they learned, the security forces were notable for their restraint in the face of unremitting violence. I’ve said this before but it is a striking and telling stat: the ratio of killing to being killed was 16 times higher for Republican terrorists than it was for members of the security forces. It’s very hard for those writing and debating the events of the Troubles, here and elsewhere, to get that one-sidedness across, because of the obligation to see everything in a (falsely) balanced way. But it was very, very one-sided.

    There are a lot of reasons people are non-plussed by the Finucane campaign – but a big one is that it is another attempt to blow up an individual case in order to obscure the big picture of what happened overall. Justice is not just about getting the truth on the individual cases that come to our attention; it is also about the equal right of everyone to that same treatment. Selective justice is not justice at all.

  • John Ó Néill

    DR – re-read the last lines again – if peace is the presence of justice – this isn’t peace – and that isn’t a sentiment that just chimes with republicans.
    Nor, do I see anywhere that I suggest that the Finucanes deserve justice anymore than anyone else. In general, I (personally) don’t really see how much long delayed truth processes are likely to ameliorate the suffering of those who have lost people, particularly when significant time has lapsed in which they have not only grieved but also, through lack of knowledge of the circumstances, had to imagine for themselves the details which they don’t know.
    The difference in the Finucane case is that the state is in a position to disclose the operational level at which there was prior knowledge that Pat Finucane was going to be murdered since the state’s own agencies managed some of the individuals who participated in the killing itself, gathered the relevant intelligence and did the operational planning.
    The perception among nationalists/republicans that there is (and generally has been) a continued failure of the state to observe the protocols of the likes of the Convention on Human Rights is still an obvious underpinning of their political aspirations that resonates far back, hence the Pearse quote.
    Finally, I did make clear that Pearse’s statement was from an other age – and I have deliberately placed it in the context of the Martin Luther King reference – justice is clearly not present here, so this is not peace: by the same token, I am not condoning the presence of violence, this is not war.
    Unfortunately we are still somewhere in between. And by we, I do mean all of us – there are no special victims, just victims.

  • Alanbrooke

    John O’Neill

    you open by saying you are not special pleading and then proceed to special plead.

    If you want to do something ethical advance a case for the those who do not have access to friends, media and money.

    Start with McKittrick’s Lost Lives there’s a tragically large number of possibilties you can choose from.

  • Neil

    It’s interesting that Unionists are so against the truth coming out here, I do wonder why? Do those same Unionists support enquiries into IRA atrocities to bring closure to families? I suspect yes. So why are they against the Finucanes? Because they’re Nationalist?

    They’ve worked tirelessly to get where they are (and that’s nowhere as far as an eqnuiry’s concerned) yet people are on attack mode, one commentor actually found it ‘amusing’ to see the Finucane’s ‘faces’ after meeting Posh Boy Dave. That’s right, they found amusement in the grief of a son who watched his father being shot in the head and die in front of hime. Decent people these Unionists wha?

    If Unionist victims want an enquiry into something or other (which many don’t as the perpetrators have been arrested and imprisoned already) then they are welcome to get up and work towards and enquiry. Like the Finucanes did.

    The fact that Unionist victims haven’t fought hard enough to get an enquiry is not the Finucane’s fault, and given the Finucanes haven’t managed to get an enquiry themselves after years of effort the fake outrage at one sided enquiries which exist only in the imagination is almost funny. What enquiries offend you so much, not the Finucane one certainly – it hasn’t happened yet.

    So what, the investigations of the HET? Maybe it hasn’t occurred to some people but the RUC may have put a lot of effort into arresting any IRA men out there already so no new evidence is available? We know there seems to be plenty of follow up available on the Loyalist side though, I wonder why? Maybe the inherent sectarianism in the RUC?

    At any rate, Loyalists want an enquiry, go and get one then. Or sit on your arse. Up to you. Just don’t complain when someone else has the strength and determination to get up off their hole and do something even if that something is to not get an enquiry.

    At least some people can find amusement in other’s grief so not a total loss.

  • John Ó Néill

    Alanbrooke – it is hardly special pleading to ask the government to disclose information it already has and to confirm whether the appropriate evidential tests for prosecution have been made?

  • Alias

    The real issue of contention is not whether the State was colluding with the murder gangs (not in dispute as fact) but whether the State was controlling them and, if so, for what purpose.

    Very little of Stevens 3 made it into the public domain but Lord Stevens recently let it slip that the scale of state control of the murder gangs goes far beyond anything that can be described as mere collusion:

    “When you talk about intelligence, of the 210 people we arrested, only three were not agents. Some of them were agents for all four of those particular organisations, fighting against each other, doing things and making a large sum of money, which was all against the public interest and creating mayhem in Northern Ireland.”

    He arrested 207 agents of the state during his enquiry. Given that reports of particular arrests often made it into the media, there is a 99% probability that any person so arrested was an agent. Those arrests included the leadership of loyalism.

    The same control of republican murder gangs is apparant. The FRU handler, Martin Ingram, who revealed the identity of Stakeknife has stated to the Swithwick Tribunal that:

    “1. As a rough guide you should expect 1 in 4 PIRA volunteers to be Agents of one agency or another.”

    “2. As a rough guide you should expect 1 in 2 PIRA officer class to be Agents of one agency or another.”

    Ingram’s agency had circa 100 active agents on its book but only one of them was loyalist. Given that there were circa 300 active PIRA members, that is a far higher percentage than Ingram’s estimates. And that is just the PIRA agents on the books of one state agency, excluding those on the books of Special Branch, MI5, MI6, HM Customs, and excluding those on the books of the agencies of other states such as Ireland’s G2 and C3.

  • Drumlins Rock

    John no matter how you use that line it remains a threat of violence because of its past use, wrapping it up in a Martin Luther King speech does not cancel that out. Wikipedia says “Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict” I think that is a more univerally accepted definition.

    As for your line on no special victims, will you now publicly call on Republicans to reveal their part in the vast majority of deaths?

  • John Ó Néill

    DR – I think everyone should reveal their part if that is the road people want to go down – but there would have to be no exceptions, with no-one hiding behind memory loss or some vague claims to national security. It would be like going through a black hole, though – no one knows what would materialise on the other side.

  • “whether the State was controlling them”

    Alias, there were two states involved, not one. The agents you’re referring to were double-agents; they were caught in a web that involved Governments and paramilitaries, loyalist and paramilitary. Much is made of Governments having their people at the heart of paramilitary groups; these groups will also have had their folks/supporters at the heart of Governments.

    For these double-agents to be effective for Governments they had to be trusted by the paramilitary groups, hence some paramilitary operations were monitored but not intercepted. Those in charge on both sides, Government and paramilitary, had also limited control of these double-agents.

  • Dec

    ‘For these double-agents to be effective for Governments they had to be trusted by the paramilitary groups, hence some paramilitary operations were monitored but not intercepted. Those in charge on both sides, Government and paramilitary, had also limited control of these double-agents.’

    None of which is applicable in the Finucane case, Nevin.

    Ken Barrett: To be honest, Finucane would have been alive today if the peelers hadn’t interfered… solicitors were kind of way taboo, if you know what I mean? We used a lot of Roman Catholic solicitors ourselves, they were taboo.. you didn’t touch them.”

  • Alanbrooke

    J O’N

    John that’s fooling nobody. Governments across the world have things they won’t disclose; that’ s the reality faced by ordinary citizens the only way to get it out is to say this citizen’s case is stronger than that one’s – ie special pleading.

    As for appropriate evdience that’s just simply code for some fat lawyer gets to fund his liking for Chateau Lafitte by always saying something isn’t quite right and more questions need to be asked. We all know the game by now.

    If you want to take the moral high ground then go for all murder victims and not just those who have the right connections.

  • “Patrick Pearse’s best known rhetorical flourish”

    John, Pearse was one of those dangerous poets that I referred to in an earlier thread, the sort that writes in (mostly other men’s) blood instead of ink. Think of the havoc that Adams and McGuinness could have wrought had they been have decent poets; I’m not aware of McDonald’s prowess in poetry.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Interesting post and thanks for those figures.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “there would have to be no exceptions”
    yet Adams was never in the Ra and Marty left in ’74, how can there be even a hint of a full process when two of the main players repeatly blantly lie? There is not one hint of openness from Republicans, but endless calls from them for openness on the other side.

  • “None of which is applicable in the Finucane case, Nevin.”

    Dec, I was just making some general points about the muddle and chaos as well as the chess game in which we found ourselves. Cory didn’t investigate Finucane’s role in all of this; he just painted a rosy picture of a human rights lawyer – a sort of PR puff.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    The thing about inquiries is that the perpetrators of 90 per cent of the Troubles deaths – the paramilitaries – believe they are not answerable to them. And the vast bulk of what we need to know about unsolved Troubles deaths resides in the heads of those guys, who are still around but just refusing to come clean.

    Inquiries are fine for getting at stuff that went wrong within anti-terrorist policing during the Troubles years, but the government can’t launch an inquiry into the machinations of the IRA Army Council. This is why the strategy of pursuing inquiries, while seeming to be about truth and justice, is not as morally white as all that.

    If the Provos and their apologists were interested in truth and justice, they would come clean for their part on who knew what and when within the Republican movement. If they don’t do this, their calls for inquiries are disingenuous.

    With Bloody Sunday, the largest public inquiry in history, unable to get more than a body swerve out of Republicans called to disclose their activities, one does despair. “I left in 1974” will not do. Any chance of an inquiry?

    Unionists are not against inquiries, we are against selective truth-seeking. And we are wise to strategy of seeking inquiries only on state wrong-doing, so as to feed the ridiculous Republican narrative of the Troubles.

    By the way, if it was a “war”, why would you seek an inquiry into the other side attacking you? It was a “war” when Republicans killed someone, but not when one of theirs got killed, it seems. It wasn’t a war and it should be investigated but Republicans need to make their minds up about all this. Otherwise it looks like they are just using any stick they can to beat the British with. And this while professing to be inspiring role models of peace-making …

  • sonofstrongbow

    If the latest statement from the group is anything to go by It might just be that the Finucane campaign is (finally) beginning to realise that their case is not regarded as ‘special’ by many other people.

    The position now seems to be that the special pleading for an inquiry on the Pat Finucane murder is not about that individual per se but rather to provide a service for everyone else and illustrate how “the State” regarded “everyone” as “expendable” and was ready to snuff them out at the drop of a hat.

    Having just read over my last paragraph I’m at a loss on how to comment further other than to say – wow!

  • Alias

    There is a propagandistic narrative that the State was colluding with loyalists to attack Catholics, and therefore the Catholics needed PIRA to defend them from the State and the loyalists. It’s not that hard to see that that propaganda works to PIRA’s advantage.

    The problem with it is twofold:

    A. The same terms of the definition of cullusion apply to the State’s agents within the PIRA murder gang as apply to the State’s agents within the loyalist murder gangs. If the State was colluding with the UDA and the UVF, etc, it was also colluding with PIRA. Therefore, if the purpose of collusion according to the narrative was to attack Catholics, how can PIRA be said to have been defending Catholics when the State was also colluding with them?

    B. PIRA murdered more Catholics that the UDA and the UVF combined. It also maimed thousands of Catholics directly by kneecapping and beatings, and harmed thousands more indirectly, causing more harm to them than was ever caused to them by loyalists. Clearly then, protecting Catholics from harm wasn’t a function of PIRA murder gang.

    The second propagandistic narrative is that the State was just as guilty of murder as the Shinners, so the State has no moral authority to judge the Shinners or to punish them for their crimes. That propaganda, of course, is usually modified to deny that PIRA committed murder, thereby elevating the murder gang to a higher moral level than those who did commit murder. This again is a transparent piece of propaganda.

    Moral authority, unlike legality, is a qualitative concept. If individuals who engaged in crimes are held to account by the state then the state can recover its moral authority. That doesn’t look likely to happen, so the next best option for the state is cover-up and denial. The moral authority of government can be recovered by changing government. The PIRA murder gang are now part of devolved British government, so they are part of the State. So the problem with the second peice is that it would require PIRA to be ejected from government and held to account for its crimes. That doesn’t look likely to happen either…

  • Todd

    Unionists are a funny breed, they talk about history as if it only began 50 years ago…

  • Dec

    ‘Cory didn’t investigate Finucane’s role in all of this’

    What role would that be, Nevin, aside from being murdered in front of his family?

  • orly

    Unionists are a funny breed, they talk about history as if it only began 50 years ago

    You could say the same of republicans sometimes with their “Brits out” tripe – like some of us are only (unwelcome) visitors here. Lusting after this Irish controlled united country encompassing the whole island. Shame it’s never existed in that same history you might be referring to 😉

  • Todd


    To alot of Irish people thats what you are, “unwelcome visitors” and that is what you will remain…

    And when talking about 50 years, I was referring to the murder campaign waged by the British over the last few hundred years in this country.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I’m guessing a lot of us are under 50 years old and our experiences start in the 60s, 70s or later. If people are focussed on the last 50 years it may be because we are talking about our own lives.

    I’m sure we’d all rather that the PIRA meeting of Jan 1970 that set things in train had never happened. But if you want to know why people are focussed on the last 50 years, you could do worse than start by looking at what was decided that day. We’ve all been living in the shadow of it ever since.

  • Dec, if Cory had looked at his role as an ‘active republican’ then he could have provided a more accurate assessment in his report; instead, he uncritically accepted some police views and rejected others. The PRM is a broad family and ‘active republican’, set alongside three PIRA brothers, gives grounds for investigating what role(s), if any, he played in that family. Unfortunately, so many lies have been told by so many of the players that it will probably be impossible to get at the truth behind his murder.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Not much commented on is that the Finucanes had to drop their court case against Ken Maginnis and were ordered to pay his costs, after they tried to sue him for calling them “an IRA family”. Ahem …

  • Finucane statement in the Lords

    Maginnis: Let me further say that there are so many victims, and victims who are close to me: Harold Sinnamon, the brother of my assistant teacher in the school where I was principal; the Dobson brothers, whom I went to school with, two people who were not involved with anything, shot in their business office; George Shaw, who contributed to his community, who took me to my first scout camp; Eric Shields, whom I worked and played rugby with and who was not a member of my party but of the Alliance Party; all these people. Was there collusion there? Are they even considered?

    In finality, I was sued by the Finucane family for saying that they were an IRA family. That is what they were, an IRA family. They sued me. When they were forced by the courts to put up or shut up, they withdrew their case against me and paid my costs.

  • socaire

    It’s almost as bad as being described as “…….. coming from a UDR family” I certainly would not want a hired gun teaching my family.

  • orly

    I don’t know Todd.

    Our family tree only goes back to the early 18th century. I think we’re the new indigenous 😉

  • orly

    oh, and you’ll be pleased to note that until relatively recently most of them were from Donegal so I guess I am just a visitor in the UK.

  • Dec, I said PRM, not PIRA. I’d have thought Jack Hermon would have had a better idea of the lie of the land than Hugh Annesley or John Stevens. Annesley IIRC took over from Hermon in 1989.

  • HeinzGuderian


  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I think the allegation is that he was effectively a Tom Hagen figure (the Robert Duval lawyer character in The Godfather).
    I’d be surprised if he was actually a member, but I don’t think that’s the allegation.

    Is anyone saying though that he had a purely professional relationship with the IRA? This is where we need someone involved who’s honest to shed some light on it. No chance of that then.

  • It might also be worth pointing out that this murder took place in the post-1985 era when London had put together a form of shared administration with Dublin and the ‘peace process’ was gathering momentum. In the latter instance support was being given to the peace process faction within the PRM so many forms of collaborative ventures were taking place well away from the eyes of ‘lazy’ journalists.

  • galloglaigh

    Pat Finucane was murdered by British state agents, who the British government paid wages (plus bonuses). The fact that Pat Finucane was murdered while at home with his family, and that (if he was a member of the PIRA) he was unarmed, makes the actions of the state in this instance, as bad as any actions of republicans (1916 or 2010). The state’s agents carried out the act, and the state should now make all its papers available so that the truth can be seen to come out. If a state has nothing to hide, it would release these papers. If the state has something to hide, it will not.

    Let’s not forget, that the UK government takes taxes in this region of Ireland, therefore we own a portion of that state. Our people (all of us) deserve the truth; our people deserve to know how far up the ladder the crimes of the British state in Ireland goes. It is my view (and the view of many thousands of people), that it goes all the way to 10 Downing street, and that all the past Prime Ministers are as guilty as Martin McGuinness or Gerry Adams. They directed a dirty war, and have hid behind ‘national security’. It could be said that McGuinness and Adams have every right not to reveal their past, as they are doing the exact same as the British state.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Galloglaigh; we do know what Adams and McGuinness were up to. The dogs in the street know.The fact is that the powers that be, including Irish and British governments, and some rabid anti-British electorate in Ireland, deliberately choose to turn a blind eye, or equivocate about IRA murder.

    In the in the interests of securing a peace deal, even Albert Reynolds was prepared to go along with this “polite fiction”.
    In reality it is an immoral position – ignoring justice and condoning evil – so that good may result.

    To paraphrase Shakespeare: “something’s rotten in the state of Ireland”.

  • galloglaigh

    something’s rotten in the state of Ireland

    Yes, it’s the British government’s presence!

  • Decimus

    That something rotten is trying its very best to make its presence felt in the Aras.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    It’s not present in the state of Ireland

  • galloglaigh

    During Shakespearian times, Ireland was one state – now it’s two. Northern Ireland is still a state in Ireland, unless it has been towed away.