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.
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