The revelations last week from the Smithwick Enquiry that Martin McGuinness allegedly authorised the murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan as well as the use of human proxy bombs have made few enough political waves.
In most western democratic societies the claim in a judicial setting that the Deputy First Minister was involved in such heinous crimes would be a scandal: here it was little more than a ripple. There are a number of possible reasons for this.
Firstly it must be stated that Ian Hurst / Martin Ingram has significant problems with credibility. Although he does genuinely seem to have been a member of army intelligence and to have left the army in good standing, his subsequent claims in books and elsewhere have been disagreed with by a number of his colleagues. Indeed some of his claims Smithwick have been contradicted by other army intelligence officers.
Although Hurst may have credibility problems there must be very, very few who actually believe that Martin McGuinness’s involvement in the IRA was as minimal as he has admitted and ended at some unspecified time in 1974. As such the claim that McGuinness had involvement in specific terrorist acts, even if from a wholly credible source, would hardly be a stunning revelation.
Peter Robinson has called on Martin McGuinness to give evidence to Smithwick and McGuinness has said that he will do so if asked. However, only the most spectacularly naïve expect that McGuinness would actually tell everything in such a context. Robinson stated that the claims would only become relevant if McGuinness were put before a court. Up to a point that is reasonable but it is worth remembering that there are persistent allegations that there was adequate evidence to prosecute McGuinness but that Operation Taurus was halted for political reasons.
The reality is that in Northern Ireland we have become desensitised to the monumental moral ambiguity which our “Peace process” has created. The victims are largely ignored as inconvenient reminders of things we would rather forget. Some politicians do keep the relatives fight for justice alive but for others the victims are pawns to be periodically played or even more cynically invoked by the pseudo academic “Peace Processors” of the “Victims Industry” to try to gain importance (and jobs) for themselves. All the while many of the self same “Peace Processors” ignore the demands by the overwhelming majority of victims for proper justice.
McGuinness’s comments and his previous appearance at the Saville tribunal should, however, be remembered every time either Sinn Fein or indeed the Peace Processors or anyone else asks for a Truth Commission. In terms of Smithwick, however, last week’s revelations probably are a case of “Move along; nothing to see here” or at least nothing we want to see.
This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.