Haass Talks: “Some of the truths which our members might reveal….”

So to pick up where Mark Devenport left off, the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers’ Association (NIRPOA) have released their submission to the Haass Talks. It’s as interesting for what it doesn’t say than what it does…

On the current models for probing the past…

The adverse effect of the tampering with these institutions has been exacerbated by the appointment to some of them (for example the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, the Historical Enquiries Team) of staff who are poorly equipped for their work in terms of training and experience and leaders who have frequently demonstrated flawed judgement, resulting in injustice for many of our members.

On the differential expectations of who is expected to tell the truth (and who is not)…

Our association does not support the concept of a “truth commission” as the circumstances in which such tools have previously been used have been completely different. Nor do we have any confidence that anyone other than our members would actually tell the truth. Some of the truths which our members might reveal may not be considered to be helpful to the political or “peace” process.

On the political gaming of the past…

The longer term objective of the propagandists is also clear. Parties to a long-running political dispute will tend to have their own narrative of the feud; and the politics of Northern Ireland (or indeed of the island of Ireland) is no exception. But it is apparent that republican propagandists are desperate to ensure that their narrative should predominate. They are therefore using all their political muscle to skew the work of the relevant institutions in Northern Ireland in order to create a false narrative in which the squalid murders and other atrocities of the period 1969 to 1998 become dressed up as a “conflict” between the state and its citizens, with members of the various loyalist and republican murder gangs described as “combatants”. (The majority of the victims of these “combatants” were, of course, what every independent commentator would describe as civilians, even if they were to accept the idea that these murders amounted to some perverted form of “combat”).

On the matter of collusion…

A senior British police officer was permitted to spend nearly twenty years, and more resources than were ever devoted to solving the murders of police officers in Northern Ireland, in order to uncover supposed collusion; the result was that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) found no evidence in Stevens’ lengthy reports which would justify the prosecution of any police officer for any criminal offence which might be thought to be in some way demonstrative of collusion.

On the Office of the Police Ombudsman…

Many of the senior investigators lacked professionalism, training and experience, leading to a total failure to understand context and, worse still, to the production of reports which were based on assumption and conjecture instead of evidence, and which exhibited confusion over the applicability of the concepts of “beyond reasonable doubt” and “on the balance of probabilities”.

The outcome of the wrong direction which has been taken is that PONI spends time and resources in dealing with historical matters for which it is totally unequipped, when it should be concentrating on maintaining the confidence of the public in the PSNI and the present policing arrangements through a rigorous investigation of complaints relating to current policing.

On the use of Inquests regarding troubles related deaths…

It is not through any fault of our members that these matters have still not been brought to inquest. Whether through the obstruction of the families (and organisations) of the deceased, the endless prevarication of the Coroner’s Office or through the perceived political expediency of those in positions of authority, our members are now faced with giving evidence about matters the memory of which, for most of them, will have long been eclipsed by many subsequent traumatic incidents. Nor do we expect to see very many terrorists associated with the incidents under examination appearing in public to account for their actions or that of their deceased associates.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty