The hyperlocal probing into the past: 9.12.11 round-up

On Friday, the probing of the past trundled onwards: at the Smithwick Tribunal into the deaths of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan, who were shot dead by the IRA in 1989; and, at the inquest into the death of Daniel Hegarty, who was shot dead by a British solider during Operation Motorman in July 1972.

There is an interesting contrast in the reporting of the Smithwick Tribunal proceedings on the BBC and in the Irish Times, with the BBC reporting on Jeffrey Donaldson’s appearance at the Tribunal focusing on how:

Mr Donaldson said Kevin Fulton was his only source that led to his naming of retired Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan, under parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons in April 2000, as being a “rogue garda”.

Mr Corrigan denies all allegations of collusion.

Mr Donaldson told the tribunal that victims campaigner William Frazer introduced him to Mr Fulton.

“After the the publication of Toby Harnden’s book ‘Bandit Country’ I met with William Frazer who said he would introduce me to someone who could provide extra information,” he said.

Mr Donaldson said he met with Newry man Mr Fulton – whose real name is Peter Keely – twice before making his statement in the House of Commons in April 2000.

“I wanted to be sure Kevin Fulton was who he said he was,” he said. “I sought to confirm this from a senior member of the security forces, who did.”

In the Irish Times, Tim O’Brien puts more emphasis and provides actual detail on the contribution of Mr Corrigan’s senior counsel, Jim O’Callaghan:

Mr O’Callaghan put it to Mr Donaldson that he only had the word of a double agent, Kevin Fulton, also known as Peter Keeley, that Mr Corrigan had colluded with the IRA.

Mr O’Callaghan said Mr Fulton had been described by various witnesses as a “fantasist”, a “Walter Mitty” and an “intelligence nuisance”. He also put it to Mr Donaldson that in 60 days of tribunal hearings the only evidence of collusion between Mr Corrigan and the IRA had related to an alleged meeting in a car park described by Mr Fulton.

However, Mr O’Callaghan said the timing for the meeting could only have happened after Mr Corrigan had retired from the force, initially on sick leave. Therefore this allegation of collusion was “impossible”.

It will be interesting to see how the Tribunal evaluates the credibility of evidence from ‘security sources’ since it is not within a jurisdiction that has to defer to Public Interest Immunity Certificate’s from the UK’s Home Office, and, as such, whether it ultimately can accept such evidence at all.

Meanwhile, the BBC also reported on the findings of the second inquest into Daniel Hegarty’s death, with his family’s solicitor saying there is now the possibility of prosecutions (although the precedents don’t suggest that yet):

…following a five day hearing, the jurors unanimously found that neither teenager posed a risk when they were shot. [Daniel’s cousin, Christopher, was wounded in the same incident]

The jury also rejected the soldiers’ claims that they had shouted warnings to the two teenagers before they were shot.

They found that none of the soldiers present attempted to “approach the injured youths to either search them or provide medical assistance”.

This is the second inquest into Daniel’s death.

The initial inquest was held in 1973 and recorded an open verdict. A second inquest was ordered by the Attorney General in 2009 following an examination by the Historical Enquiries Team.

People will [obviously] differ considerably in their attitude to the persistent hyperlocal probing of the past, with no over-arching framework or narrative. How do you weight the value, if any, to the families of the dead, like the Breens, Buchanans and Hegartys against interests of other stakeholders in society or justice?

But, clearly, this is going to continue for some time yet and isn’t just going to go away.

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  • How do you weight the value, if any, to the families of the dead, like the Breens, Buchanans and Hegartys against interests of other stakeholders in society or justice?

    You cannot, in a totally divided society with two “truths”. I think that the only thing we can expect are the facts; then people can draw their own conclusions, often opposed conclusions unfortunately.

  • fordprefect

    Well, obviously all families concerned were devastated at the death of loved ones. The difference is, Breen and Buchanan were actively investigating and targeting a guerrilla army, were caught by them and executed. The IRA admitted it and didn’t apologise over it. In Daniel Hegarty’s case, he was a 15 year old that was shot twice in the head and killed (his cousin Christopher was shot in the head and survived) for nothing. The British soldiers involved in this then lied and tried to cover it up.

  • fordprefect,

    The police officers were not executed, they were murdered.

  • Daniel Hegarty was murdered too.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    The common denominator in all the allegations of collusion in this case is Keeley, there is no other source. Thus Frazer, Donaldson et al were quoting the same person.

  • fordprefect

    Joecanuck, were the 8 guys in Loughgall executed or murdered? Were the 3 guys in Strabane executed or murdered? (remember in this one an SAS man had lifted the balaclava of one of them, shot him in the side of the head, and pulled the balaclava back down again), and, all the weapons they had were in bags and broken down. In Loughgall they finished them off on the ground if they were still alive. That’s only two I’m mentioning, there’s more. Was Nora McCabe, Julie Livingstone and Carole Anne Kelly Murdered?

  • galloglaigh

    Jeffrey Donaldson is a bit of a hypocrite. He can meet a former republican ‘terrorist’ in 2000, yet he cant sit in government with former republican ‘terrorists’ in 2004. The one he met in 2000, will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back at the Smithwick Tribunal. That lone voice is the only evidence available to date, and people like Donaldson and Jim Allister will look like fools – yet again!

    The soldier who murdered Daniel Hegarty, should face the same courts that Gerry McGeough faced; his crime is as abhorrent as the soldier’s. Crimes committed by soldiers, should be investigated in the same manner as republican and loyalists crimes; to say otherwise, is to support the type of state sponsored terrorism that we see today, in countries such as Syria and Israel.

  • fordprefect,

    There is a third category – killed in action.
    Shooting a prisoner in the head, if it happens, is clearly murder.
    I accept that some soldiers committed murder, most infamously on Bloody Sunday.
    But the numbers are miniscule compared to the murders carried out by the IRA.