Eamonn McCann gives an absorbing analysis in Counterpunch, co- edited by Alexander Cockburn the Independent’s highly critical reporter of “the war on terror,” of the linkages between the Omagh bomb and the Boston College tapes.
A key figure is former Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter, who is now one of a number of former RUC and PSNI officers working for Col Tim Collins’ New Century security consultancy in Afghanistan. Others will know much more about Baxter than I. Since his retirement he has been a vocal critic of the “creative ambiguity” of the GFA, especially with regard to the pursuit of the old republican warriors. I notice he flirted with unionist politics and attacked the UUP for their ineffectiveness in the Newsletter last year.
Does McCann’s piece suggest that elements associated with the PSNI are trying to wreck the peace process? Or can it be read as describing how the police are getting on with the job of bringing the former IRA leadership to book, in the absence of a formal amnesty?
Who understands the present state of policy in this area? Governments cannot hide indefinitely behind the operational independence of the police, as the political implications could be serious if the PSNI’s trawling ever amounted to anything. Comment from Mc Cann is restrained, as it is – more surprisingly perhaps – in Ed Moloney’s post in his own website.
As he looks back on more than 30 frustrating years policing in the North, even as he assumes his new and more wide-ranging – and enormously more lucrative, one imagines – role in the global war on terror, Baxter may take grim satisfaction from the fact that he has some of his old enemies still in his sights. He may be cheered, too, by the thought that he won’t be confronted by the same defeatist attitudes and dark maneuvers in the freewheeling fight in Afghanistan as he faced in the constrained circumstances of Northern Ireland, that this time the good guys will get to win. Of course, he could be wrong about that.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London