Smithwick debate: “it calls into question Sinn Féin’s professed commitment to open and transparent truth-telling”

A  minor detail from yesterday’s debate on the Smithwick Tribunal worth rescuing from the NI’s political press spike. It’s the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone speaking in favour of his party’s amendment (defeated BTW) :

Sinn Féin is alone in its denial of the findings of the Smithwick tribunal, but that denial echoes the denials of those who have rejected findings of collusion in the North by elements of the RUC, the UDR, and the British Army and its agencies.  There are many victims of collusion, and members of my own party number among them.  Those who deny findings of collusion, whether from the Smithwick tribunal or from those investigating acts of terrorism in the North, are in denial of the past.

That is not the only part of the findings of the Smithwick tribunal that Sinn Féin is in denial about.  It is also in denial about Judge Smithwick’s assessment of the evidence — and I use that term loosely — that the representatives of the Provisional IRA who were responsible for the murders presented to the tribunal.

Facilitated by Sinn Féin, those representatives gave their version of the brutal murders of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan.  They failed to allow that version to be questioned and tested in front of the tribunal, despite the best efforts of Judge Smithwick.  Instead, they demanded to dictate the terms and conditions under which they would answer the tribunal’s questions.

In the end, after assessing all the evidence available to him and comparing independent eyewitness accounts, scene of crime forensic reports and the autopsy reports, Judge Smithwick concluded that the Provisional IRA had lied to the tribunal.  Is that the conclusion that Sinn Féin denies?  It denies that conclusion because it calls into question the organisation’s professed commitment to open and transparent truth-telling on the past.

Judge Smithwick found that, when given the opportunity to demonstrate that commitment, rather than just talk about it, because talk is very cheap, representatives of the Provisional IRA failed the test.  Not only did he find that they had lied to a tribunal, he concluded that they had lied due to “political considerations”. [Emphasis added]

One of the problems with political discourse is that significant detail like this is ignored when considering larger picture issues in favour of a kind of political stenography of the two bigger parties.

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  • I agree.
    But surely its the people AROUND politics rather those in it, who are at fault.
    Things go reported but are never really tackled. Everythng is allowed to drift. Nobody ever really lands a blow.
    Its all shadow boxing.
    Which is why Patsy is to be congratulated on this.
    No point in complaining about the Big Two without really going after them.

  • Kevsterino

    But isn’t this whole truth telling thing a charade to begin with? I mean, even if they get every participant to tell the truth about what they did during those years, is a single mind going to be changed as a result? I don’t see that happening.

    Therefor it just becomes another blurry, fuzzy impossible thing to go on and on about.

    Idealistic clap trap.

  • Mick Fealty

    There’s a sort of symbiotic relationship between the two. One hand the smaller parties still have the remnants of embittered entitlement. On the other hand, Kremlinology has proper analysis in which traditional fact checking plays a minimal role.

    But in essence, what you said Fjh.

  • Philthy_McNasty

    Why anyone expects a terrorist (state sponsored or otherwise) to tell the truth is beyond me. But in the police, army and republican movements will be men involved, who had a moral compass, and would seek justice. There just may not be enough to help every victim. I think what Im trying to say is, people may need to adjust their expectations.

  • blackie

    The IRA killed the 2 ruckers not Sinn Fein. SDLP defending RUC terrorists, a sure vote winner.

  • Its not just the smaller parties that have embittered entitlement.
    Just look at Alliance “entitlement” facilitated by the Big Two “extreme” parties. Alliance have effectively been bought off and they love it.
    The “mandated by Assembly” is a fig leaf. And not a very convincing one.
    But outside the Assembly there is an even bigger sense of entitlement. I must have been at about 12 events since start of November…most reported on here….and there is residual resentment about DUP and SF being in charge.
    A lot of resentment on these threads also.
    But nobody actually seen be DOING anything. Talk and Blog. I do that …but I’m good at it and useless at everything else.

    But each time a SF or DUP or Alliance person (even the nice ones) gets a handshake, an invite, a re-tweet or a selfie in the Ulster Tatler or spoken to on first name terms… facilitates the arrangement we have.
    It actually makes US a part of it.
    We have to live with it or undermine it.
    No point in sitting around waiting for DUP, SF or Alliance to implode. Or agonise about the electoral implications of SELF INFLICTED wounds.
    We can assist in the process.

  • tacapall

    This is all a bit confusing. Both the RUC and Garda both held inquiries into allegations of collusion in the executions of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan, both police forces found no evidence. Along comes the Smithwick Tribunal which hears evidence from members of the organisation responsible for the executions, evidence which Smithwick dismisses as untruthful, yet finds evidence of probable collusion based on evidence supplied by the same RUC who found no evidence of collusion when they carried out their own investigation.

    Is there any actual evidence available that is fact rather than assumption.

  • Barney

    “One of the problems with political discourse is that significant detail like this is ignored when considering larger picture issues in favour of a kind of political stenography of the two bigger parties.”

    The tribunal proved nothing, the star witness that all the troubles porn is based on refused to testify, there was no questioning of the British “intelligence” which flooded in during the dying days. There was no opportunity to properly examine these reports.

    Smithwick performed exactly same task as widgery did all those years ago.

    What we need is a proper truth commission something that Haass could have supplied however it was scuppered.

  • Barney

    “Is there any actual evidence available that is fact rather than assumption.”
    No there is however plenty of evidence of clutching at straws…..

  • Mc Slaggart

    In the end it depends on what you call “collusion”.

  • Im happy enough to accept that there was collusion in the case of the killing of two senior RUC men.
    I think its a reasonable conclusion.
    There is no point in republicans such as myself bemoaning the fact that unionists could not bring themselves to accept overwhelming evidence of RUC and British Army conclusion in so many killings if I refuse to accept the same.
    To deny Smithwick places republicans in the same boorish position.

  • socaire

    It’s disappointing that one of the greater stoopesses still cannot differentiate between the Army of the Republic and the Free State Army. Long may their withering continue. I’m also surprised at Pádraig Mac Giolla Eoin chasing unionists’ approval rather than chasing votes.

  • Adams has lied through his teeth about his involvement in the PIRA. He has lied constantly about his relationship with his brother after he knew that his brother had raped his niece.
    Does anyone expect to ever get the truth from him. Open and transparent? – yeah, right.

  • son of sam

    A bizarre post from Socaire(10-28pm) Maybe he would explain what he means about the two armies.Why the aggression towards Mr Mc Glone?

  • socaire

    Click on the 1st link in the blog – the ‘amendment’ one and suffer through to Dolores Kelly’s contribution. Did you think I was losing the plot? I like Uas Mhic Giolla Eoin . That’s why I am surprised.

  • Politico68

    It really is a waste of time in my humble opinion. Tribunals dont have enuff teeth to hold anybody to account even if they did find a bag full of evidence which doesnt seem to be the situation in this case. As for people telling the truth or being in denial? Welcome to the real world of post conflict politics. In these circumstances the truth is only the truth when the the truth disagrees with the truth professed by your opponent. The only chance victims have of getting some peace is in the context of round table peace and reconciliation where all parties to the conflict are obliged to bring their cake to the tea party. Sadly, it would seem that all parties are willing to sweat it out, untill enuff time has passed to bury the whole sorry saga in the dust of history. Move along there now………….

  • Rory Carr

    McGlone constantly berates Sinn Féin for being “in denial” regarding Smethwick’s conclusions. But SF are not in denial.

    They instead adamantly refute the conclusions of the tribunal, as indeed do many others, as the evidence to hand simply does not stack up anywhere near sufficient enough in support, an uneasy fact of which McGlone himself appears to be in denial.

    As for Fitzjameshorse’s penitential need to be, “happy enough to accept that there was collusion…” regardless of the lack of evidence, manifesting in some hopeless exercise of trying to persuade intransigent unionists by example, of well-evidenced collusion by British forces in the murder of innocent Catholics, I shall allow that stance to illustrate its own tangled morality.

  • megatron

    What Rory said.

    I am fine with governements setting the level of proof required by Tribunal to be low. No harm (in theory) in someone saying on the balance of probabilities x or y happened (if for example this is appreciated by the families).

    Somewhere in the reporting and commentary this gets translated into facts. We just dont know if the PIRA people told the truth or not. Any attempt to say otherwise is nonsense. We dont know the truth.

    Basically then instead of the hard to answer question of “did the PIRA tell the truth”, people substitute a “do I like PIRA” question and Mick and FJH and otherscome to predictable conclusions.

    I am sure there are political points to score here so fair enough but lets frame it that way rather than some sort of gotcha for Patsy.

  • babyface finlayson

    If I remember correctly, the evidence of the autopsy the witness statements and the forensics all suggested the IRA version was not accurate.
    So McGlone is right about that.
    As for evidence of collusion, well Smithwick in my view went into great detail on the evidence pointing to collusion.
    No smoking gun but enough weight of circumstantial evidence to make a reasonable conclusion, which was his remit.
    It would be naive or obtuse to read his report and say there was no evidence of collusion.

  • cynic2

    “Sinn Féin’s professed commitment to open and transparent truth-telling”

    Have I been smoking some strange and potent new type of cannabis that totally distorts reality?

  • Mark

    ” It would be naive or obtuse to read and say there was no evidence of collusion ” …….

    It would be naive to think there was no level of collusion full stop but not because of the Smithwicks findings . There was nothing concrete in what he said . To base some of the findings on the evidence of British agent turned journalist Kevin Fulton who in his book ” unsung hero ” talks about taking part in the manslaughter of a Republican in a botched punishment shooting .

    What is also naive is to expect South Armagh IRA members to co-operate with an inquiry 7/8 years after they disbanded . Would the British army share operational procedures with the public . Did Brian Nelson’s handler Gordon Kerr come clean when giving evidence at Nelson’s murder trials ? .

    The reason IMO that it is obvious there was collusion is because there was wide spread sympathy for the Republican Movement and Republicanism in general in the South back then . And not just on working class estates as some would have you believe . It stands to reason that people looked the other way etc etc . The hunger strikes , the Supergrass trails , the shoot to kill policy , Thatcher ….the list goes on .

    One more thing …the inquiry went on for eight years , Fulton wrote his book 6/7 years ago . In it and it’s out there for all to read , he practically names the Omagh bomber , was that information ever acted on ?

  • son of sam

    Have to agree with Cynic 2(5-06pm) .A commitment from Sinn Fein to”open and transparent truth -telling” would have me looking skywards for the flying pigs!!

  • sean treacy

    Glad to see Patsys new found interest in collusion.Thing is he has been politically active since at least 1985 and when the Brits were up to their necks in collusion ,Patrick never uttered a word.If anyone can produce a statement which he issued condemning collusion when the conflict was on,I would like to see it.Patsys problem is that he never got over the fact that the voters of Mid Ulster prefer the SF brand by a very wide margin.

  • son of sam

    Can we believe from Sean treacys post above that “collusion” is an issue that Sinn Fein alone are allowed to comment on.Perhaps the names Scappaticci and Donaldson to name but two could be included in any conversation. S D L P politicians such as Seamus Mallon and Austin Currie raised collusion issues decades ago when S F were still testing the electoral waters.

  • sean treacy

    SOS,Mallon may have mentioned the Glenanne gang in a wishy washy manner.Curries contribution was to urge people to join the UDR.McGlone NEVER mentioned it and Brian Feeney admitted the stoops never believed collusion existed when SFwere highlighting it.

  • babyface finlayson

    sean treacy
    So you find nothing to disagree with in what McGlone actually said, you just don’t like him saying it?

  • sean treacy

    The point I making is that McGlone didn’t give a damn about collusion when it was happening and is only mentioning it now in a pathetic attempt to point score against those who have electorally thrashed him .

  • socaire

    So three or four Gardaí MAY be SUSPECTED of PERHAPS having given the Provos the nod when the RUC men were leaving Dun Dealgan. How this pales into insignificance when you think of all the Trevors and their relations in the UDR and all the missing photomontages etc etc., the Glenanne crew, Breen/Buchanan’s allegedly iffy connection to RUC rogue elements in S Armagh. But sure that’s all behind us now …………. isn’t it?

  • And of course, worth mentioning that the Pat Finnucane Centre present at SDLP Conferences.
    And I believe that a daughter of one of the victims of collusion was elected to the SDLP Party Executive in 2011.?
    And Sinn Fein seem a bit embarrassed about 21st century collusion as in the case of Paul Quinn in Crossmaglen and Robert McCartney in Short Strand.
    Any collusion there? And who is doing the colluding?
    The SDLP seem more involved in exposing THAT alleged collusion than Sinn Fein.
    Maybe apologists for Sinn Fein might accuse me of point scoring.
    But to paraphrase someone.
    “Collusion….it hasn’t gone away you know”

  • socaire

    Normally, fjh, you do not allow yourself to be needled by anti SDLP remarks but I have to ask in both the Paul Quinn and McCartney cases, who are you accusing of colluding with who? SF with PIRA? SF with RUC? I truly miss your point. McCartney bit off more than he could chew in a barroom brawl and likewise Paul Quinn. Where is the collusion?

  • Well you might have to ask.
    I could direct you to a SDLP hosted event at An Feile in West Belfast in August.
    Two or three of Sinn Feins finest were in the audience.
    The Discussion on Victims had panelists including Catherine McCartney, sister of Robert. I do not think there is much doubt that Robert was murdered by IRA and others covered it up.
    Thats collusion.
    Another panelist was Mrs Quinn! mother of Paul.
    She did not seem to have much doubt who the criminal gang who murdered her son is. Nor does she doubt that they have influential friends in Crossmaglen.

    I am sure that you join with me in hoping that Mrs Quinn gets Justice and those responsible for the death of her son are put away for a very long time.
    I’m not unduly needled by Anti SDLP remarks. I am always needling my colleagues in SDLP.
    As you know from 1993 to 2009 I actually voted Sinn Fein. They currently get my second preference.
    People of a certain unionist leaning tend to doubt my morality but I dont have any misgivings.
    I have no misunderstanding about what IRA was capable of and no misunderstanding about the extent some will go to cover up.

    And I have no misunderstanding about the extent the British will go to, to protect THEIR secrets and their rogue elements.
    I have absolutely no problem in stipulating that the two senior RUC officers were ambushed as a result of collusion. …and see a much bigger picture of a consistent pattern of British collusion.
    If accepting that verdict helps others see that….McGurks, Finnucane, Glenanne Gang…and my own major concern Ballymurphy Massacre…are accepted, then I dont see a problem.
    Indeed the general acceptance that awful things happened might well help the broader republican cause rather than the narrow cause of some republicans.

    If IRA are serious about a measure of support in the South, then it is entirely logical to think that they had intelligence gained from (rogue) Garda sources.
    The alternative explanation that it was all down IRA “luck” and the crass statement by Gerry Adams …really doesn’t say much for the effectiveness of the IRA in South Armagh.

  • Mark

    FJH ,

    Apart from all these conferences you attend , you must get the nod for COBRA meetings as well . Where did you hear SF killed Paul Quinn ?And were you not voting for SF when Robert McCartney was killed ? …… and during his sister’s campaign afterwards . You say you started voting SF in 93 and continued until 2009 . No problem with Canary Wharf then or security forces executed in Lurgan or the Northern Bank Job and a whole lot in between .

    What was it you were saying about SF apologists . You are point scoring FJH …at least be honest about that .

  • son of sam

    You accuse F J H of point scoring.Are you,Socaire and Sean treacy not doing the same?

  • tacapall

    Fitzjameshorse1745 obviously your playing to the SDLP gallery and engaging in a bit of political backslapping in regards to Patsy McGlone’s ability to change assumption into fact. Didn’t you say you were thinking of standing for election on a SDLP ticket, your sort of sticking to the party line rather than giving your personal opinion.

    At what stage do you brush under the carpet the fact that both the RUC and the Garda both ruled out collusion when they carried out their own extensive inquiries?

    Did the IRA have intelligence supplied to them by someone within the British army when they executed 18 British paratroopers at Warrenpoint ? If we are to believe the the PIRA were incapable of generating their own intelligence without outside help was there collusion from RUC officers when they murdered eight police officers in a mortar attack in Newry police station.

    Was there collusion at Canary Wharf ?

    Taking into account the fact that these meetings between the RUC and Garda happened on a regular basis and strangely enough the same car was used by the RUC officers, is it not more than likely the PIRA became aware of these meetings through their own network of members who watched police stations in nationalist areas on a 24 hour basis.

    If its inconceivable that the PIRA carried out the murders of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan without collusion of some sort from some state intelligence agency then there’s just as much evidence of British state involvement taking into account the bizarre route they took through the most dangerous area in the six counties, off bounds to even the British army except via helicopter most times, the fact they were unarmed and unescorted and the fact that Breen was a liability just like chief superintendent Brian Fitzsimmons and the other 24 security force personnel who directed and controlled Britain’s dirty war in Ireland, all sacrificed by perfidious Albion.

  • sean treacy

    FJH you seem to have gone on a bit of a detour without addressingmy point that McGlone NEVER mentioned collusion at the time it was being practised on a massive scale by the Brits.Patsy is a practioner of a phenominum known in southern politics as”cute hoorism”.This is hardly a surprise as he led the stoop/ff merger attempt and still belongs to a FF forum.Despite his image he has never been very successful in electoral terms.He could not even win a council seat in his native south Derry and had to move to Cookstown District to get elected.He held onto this seat through a clientelist approach that would have put any FF gombeen man to shame but was unable to get elected to Stormont in its early days.He eventually made it ,displacing Dennis Haughey with hints that Dennis wasn’t allocated his usual electoral territory.He cosies up to the AOH and the catholic right and appears in photo opps with the likes of McCrea og who regard him as the acceptable face of nationalism. So forgive me if I take anything he says with a pinch of salt.

  • Actually I have also said that I intend to be the SDLP Party Leader within five years.
    I have also stated I shaved yesterday for the first time in 2014 and the selfie I took on Wednesday night will be used on my election poster.
    For some peculiar reason, I didnt actually fill in any form ..deadline September 2013….advising SDLP that I intended to stand in the elections this year but I think my announcements here, on my own blog and on Facebook are a de facto application.
    I have also said that I have two red ties to be used on election literature.
    I have also sought and published testimonials from leading SDLP figures to be used on literature.
    “That gobshite!!!!” …a typical response.
    I suspect that my MBE in 2011 (also much notified) for services to blogging is held against me by some in my party.
    Or maybe its the fact that I voted SF for more than 15 years and am totally unapologetic about it.
    Maybe its the fact that I have routinely said that the collective performance of SDLP ministers after 1998 was poor and that they were past their prime….that does not go down well as it is hardly the party line.

    Frankly there are people outside the SDLP who take my announcements more seriously than anyone inside the SDLP. I have been known not to take them very seriously myself. Sometimes it even surprises me when people take EVERYTHING seriously.

    But whatever I said in relation to Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn’s murders is exactly what I heard on a summer night at St Marys College.
    Is what I am saying about that a SDLP party line?
    I doubt Ms McCartney and Mrs Quinn are following SDLP policy.
    What I heard that night was painful and I did not blog the details. What I did say was that I found the testimonies compelling.
    As indeed the testimonies of many victims including Ballymurphy are compelling and have a ring of truth.
    But it would be a mistake to think that all the people in that lecture hall were SDLP people.
    Many were victims…including the brother (last surviving member of his family) whose 17 year old brother was tortured for 14 hours before dying at the hands of loyalists.

    Of course dont take my word for the compelling nature of the testimony I heard that night.
    A former SF MLA, journalist and blogger was there that night. In the front seat.
    I dont know if he blogged about it.
    But I daresay he reads Slugger and he might want to give his view as to whether the testimonies were compelling.
    Clearly some here might want to believe him more than me. I am after all just doing the (SDLP) party line.

  • Mark

    Son of Sam ,

    I don’t feel like I was trying to point score in my earlier post . Without wanting to man play FJH ( whom I respect but don’t always agree with ) I think it’s a little hypocritical to paint SF as monsters during a period were he openly admits to voting for them . The fact he’s a paid up member of SDLP now indicates to me …a little political point scoring .

    PS Son of Sam – I don’t really have a dog in this fight . I’m not a member of any political party ….. just an ordinary Republican lol .

  • Mark

    Where ….

  • gendjinn

    Any shred of plausible deniability that Mick previously possessed of not having an anti-SF agenda is forever blown out of the water.

    SF rejects one report of collusion, Unionists reject all but one. That one being the weakest of all reports.

    Mick, shame on you. You are a bought & paid for shill of the British state and Unionism and you have just provided the irrefutable and incontrovertible proof.

    Why don’t you prove me wrong by pointing us to the last blog where you criticised either? Go on, I dare you.

  • babyface finlayson

    Should slugger have ignored the report and the fallout from it?
    Do you think the evidence that contradicts the IRA statement is wrong?
    Surely it as least arguable that McGlone is right and therefore worth discussion?

  • Mick Fealty


    “You are a bought & paid for shill of the British state and Unionism and you have just provided the irrefutable and incontrovertible proof.”

    If you cannot get the ball get the man, eh?

    Where have you been? I’ve been pointing out for years that when tested SF’s irresolve to tell the truth about themselves is a big big problem for the rest of us.

    If that’s all the proof you needed then you had it years ago:

    Of course I don’t expect people to agree with me on this. But I’m saying it because I genuinely believe it’s a problem, not so much when people lie about what they know, but when that lie is passed on as legal tender. It debases the coinage.

    In the meantime, whilst it wasn’t me who shouted ‘lets throw another stupid Orangeman on the fire’, what sort of ‘shill’ let’s this happen, Or puts this kind of information in the public domain,

    For someone who has commented anonymously (and uncensored) on this site for years you take an awful lot of liberties with the truth.