Mature attitude to dealing with the past is to tell the truth and pay the price?

Secrets, secrets. I shut my ears to the bell.
Head hugged. Eyes shut. Leaf ears. Don’t tell. Don’t tell.

Sequence VI, Station Island, Seamus Heaney

Trevor Ringland has a statement out this morning, in which he makes a modest proposal to Gerry Adams and his offer to talk to the PSNI:

“Mr Adams says he is prepared to talk to the PSNI about this terrible incident”, Trevor explained. “However, many people are understandably sceptical about the likelihood of the Sinn Féin President providing an honest account, given that he still maintains he wasn’t even a member of the IRA. He should set an example to other members of his party, take some responsibility for his movement’s violent past and volunteer everything he knows about Jean McConville’s murder to the police.”

“If we’re to overcome the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, it’s no good having a process where some people are seemingly exempt from the truth. A mature attitude to dealing with the past, from Sinn Féin, would involve cooperating with efforts to provide justice for victims, even if it were to mean that senior members had to go to gaol for two years. The Jean McConville murder was one of the most disturbing incidents to happen during the Troubles and a good start by republicans would be complete honesty about who was involved.”


  • Sp12

    Lets cut to the chase.
    Unionism (and indeed the British Gov) is quite happy with how things are done currently, sure they occasionally kick and scream about it, and say ‘what about the victims!’ (i.e. those killed by the IRA, as demonstrated by Jim’s recent victims show at Stormont)
    But a genuine truth recovery process that would involve a ‘Western Democratic’ state admitting that it murdered it’s own citizens?
    Not a chance, best to keep things the way they are.

  • Mick Fealty

    Overhead in the Dail just now in remarks to the Justice Minister: “It’s always someone else and never yourself…”

  • Fortlands

    An up-to-date response to sp12, Mick,but it’s not really a response to his point: are the British government going to do the same re it’s misdeeds? Truth recovery, if that’s what’s needed, should be for everyone and Trevor, as a good Conservative, might want to have a word in Mr Cameron’s ear to that effect.

  • zep

    Let’s say he is – what motive does anyone (Government included) have to actually tell the truth? The balance of power rests with those who know what happened, and when, and to whom. Do you trust Cameron to tell you straight what happened to, e.g. Pat Finucane? I don’t.

  • summerhill

    Why doesn’t Trevor Ringland himself ask those ( both family and non family members)within the RUC / PSNI / UDR / RIR to take the lead and publish what they know about torture of prisoners, ill treatment in barracks, killing of children by plastic bullets, shoot to kill, collusion etc? Just a thought

  • zep

    Again, summerhill – would you believe what you were told? I don’t see the onus on any party to the conflict here to be upfront about their role.

  • Mick Fealty


    Make no mistake, there are strong lobbies around the conservatives in government who see an opportunity for just such an outcome in the wake of the outing of the #ShinnersList arrangement.

    As for motive it’s just one way to reset for a cleaner future.

    It would be a mistake however to think the British state shares the same defensive motivations as an organisation like SF, which is still led by its wartime leaders.

    As we saw in the case of budgets promised by the last Labour government, trying to close on unmet promises by the last government does not necessarily work with this one.

    Of course Mr A will never confess, nor will Mr McG et al. The political fallout would be, erm, a little too difficult to manage. And as long as SF aren’t confessing, there is no pressure on the British to throw old officers and men to the courts.

    Under the circumstances, the terms of the settlement where clear enough. Two years, and you’re out. It goes with a reassuringly (for the protagonists concerned) low prosecution rates for officially designated ‘friends of the Peace Process™’.

  • Charles_Gould

    I very much agree with the idea that Gerry Adams should simply admit what he did, apologize, accept two years in prison if that is what it takes. I suspect this is the only way now he can redeem himself in the history books.

  • summerhill

    ‘It would be a mistake however to think the British state shares the same defensive motivations as an organisation like SF, which is still led by its wartime leaders.’


    ‘There are people in buildings around here ( point finger in the air and move in circular fashion) that will not allow me to give you a public inquiry’ (paraphrasing) David Cameron in 10 Downing Street to Geraldine Finucane widow of assassinated Human Rights lawyer Pat Finucane.

  • zep

    … but you would take his word for it if he said he was telling you the truth?

  • Sp12

    “And as long as SF aren’t confessing, there is no pressure on the British to throw old officers and men to the courts.”

    Ah, I see.
    So as well as denying justice to the IRA victims, SF are also denying it to the victims of the state. But not the other way round of course, because, you know, western democracies always take their cue from paramilitaries.
    Sammy Devaney’s family should be told of this, they’re probably suffering under the mistaken belief
    that their father’s killers are still alive and being protected by another police force.

  • tacapall

    “Under the circumstances, the terms of the settlement where clear enough. Two years, and you’re out. It goes with a reassuringly (for the protagonists concerned) low prosecution rates for officially designated ‘friends of the Peace Process”

    Thats the problem Mick at least some people are brought before the courts, state sponsored protagonists enjoy the luxury of an amnesty and also being rewarded financially with even a promotion for their misdeeds. Seeing as testimonies to any Tom Dick or Harry are seen as reliable evidence these days perhaps Ken Barretts to the Panorama team might be looked at again –

    “19.6 During the course of this meeting, DS Brown asked Barrett directly who murdered Patrick Finucane. Barrett’s reply was “hypothetically, me”. In addition, during the course of the ensuing conversation, Barrett provided the officers with considerable detail about the circumstances of the murder of Patrick Finucane that was found to closely match aspects of the offence revealed by the police enquiries and the examination of the crime scene. The cumulative effect of the detail supplied by Barrett left DS Brown in no doubt whatsoever that he had been a party to the murder of Mr Finucane”

    “19.10 On Tuesday 27 July 1999 Barrett was arrested by the Stevens III Investigation team on suspicion of the murder of Patrick Finucane. Upon being cautioned he made no reply and remained largely silent throughout a series of interviews. When questioned in detail about information he had provided to DS Brown, DC McIlwrath and DC R/06 at the meeting of 3 October 1991, he exercised his right to silence. After his arrest his fingerprints were taken. On 30 July 1999 Kenneth Barrett was released without charge”

    “19.11 On 13 October 1999 Barrett was re-arrested by the Stevens III Investigation team as his left thumbprint had been found on a photograph recovered from intelligence material linked to Brian Nelson.

    19.12 Photographs of the kind on which Barrett’s print was found were an essential part of the material put together by the UDA for the purpose of targeting republican paramilitaries for assassination. Barrett was interviewed in the light of this new evidence, but once again declined to answer any questions. He was again released without charge”

    “Finucane would have been alive today if the peelers hadn’t interfered …”

    “… the killing of Pat Finucane was organised by the police. Right. The dogs on the street know that. Everyone knows it.”

    “Eamon Hardy [BBC journalist]: Well I suppose all the information about Finucane was coming via the security services, the RUC …

    Ken Barrett: Via the RUC, it can’t come from anywhere flipping else… ”

    “… the peelers wanted him whacked, we whacked him and that’s the end of the story as far as I’m concerned.”

    If you can make an admission in front of three police officers, (three police officers who were willing to testify and had records of his admission) and still walk out of a police station without being charged how can Ivor Bell be charged using his testimony to some college.

  • Mick Fealty


    That’s my point. The British state is compartmentalised. The PM of the time is dead and most of the cabinet on its way.

    That said, the squaddies from Bloody Sunday will face prosecution if it can gather sufficient evidence. People are not exactly breaking down the doors [the dFM included].

    It’s taking a while for it to sink in for some, but SF is not strong player in this game. It has made a virtue of that weakness by getting others to protest for justice, even whilst petitioning the British state secretly for pardons and all manner of immunities for its own volunteers.

    Politically speaking, their special pleading is the large armoured Hummer sitting right in the middle of the road preventing anyone else seeking the truth and justice they deserve.

    That all may be set aside for political reasons, but it cannot now just be disregarded… Nor can matters proceed in the partial way they appear to have done in recent times.

  • Sp12

    “That said, the squaddies from Bloody Sunday will face prosecution if it can gather sufficient evidence. People are not exactly breaking down the doors [the dFM included].”

    It’s a rare sort of murder enquiry that sits around on it’s hands waiting for suspects to come speak to it. Is that also SF’s fault? Or can we entertain the notion that the armoured Hummer stopped in the middle of the road discovered a very settled looking Sixer that had been there for a few decades at least.

  • Mick Fealty

    Rare? Ha! Not in Northern Ireland. It’s the norm, isn’t it? Besides, making approaches to people given immunity by Savile would be a bit rum.

    But Martin could lead the way? Could he not?

  • Sp12

    “Rare? Ha! Not in Northern Ireland. It’s the norm, isn’t it?”

    No it’s not the norm. It’s not the way the vast majority of cases are/were investigated, and since when were the soldiers officially given immunity?
    Taking the standards that have always been applied to soldiers and policemen and trying to argue that it’s the norm for all sides, and that furthermore it’s all down to SF is one of the most disingenuous things I’ve read in an OP on this site.

  • Mick Fealty

    Under the specific terms of Saville all witnesses were immune from prosecutions on the grounds of self incrimination. How then do you think the PSNI can go hunting down leads from Saville unless individuals come to them prepared to waive their immunity?

    As for the core problem SF presents to anyone looking for justice, this is probably where it’s been most baldly expressed on this site: And some relevant bits from the judgement:

  • Son of Strongbow

    At least Saville set out immunity in the clear light of day. That is some small mark of ‘maturity’ in dealing with the past.

    Last evening BBCNI’s Spotlight programme broadcast the details surrounding an individual’s fingerprint having been found on a bomb part following an explosion that murdered two men in Fermanagh.

    For years this person was recorded as wanted by the police, and latterly by the HET who were reinvestigating the crime (HET informed the victims’ families of these facts).

    Suddenly, around 2007, this ‘wanted’ status evaporated. No explanations from the police or HET as to why things changed. The victims’ families have been left angry and hurt. It is people like them who are picking up the tab for the price of the past.

  • Politico68

    If we want the truth we can have it pretty simply. Independent international commission for truth and reconciliation. In a couple of years GA and others who were caught up in the heat of the war will be gone from the political scene, or just gone. Now, we are just wasting precious time. As for the victims of state murder, its between them and the British authorities to deal with it. SF and other parties can only lobby on behalf of their constituents if that’s what the families want. Any deal between the British and Republicans or loyalists is just that, a deal between them and has no baring on how the British should answer to the families unless they have a similar deal set up, which they clearly don’t. Any suggestion that the British OTR list can be applied when dealing with the families is nonsense.

  • Sp12

    Being granted immunity from prosecution on the grounds of self incrimination is not the same thing as a blanket immunity.
    As for how the police could go about hunting down leads, I dunno, maybe do some like police work or something? You know, the sort of thing that police do all the time when it comes to investigating murders that haven’t been carried out by policemen or soldiers, cautioning people that they are suspects rather than interviewing them like witnesses.
    Its a mad idea I know, but all those eye witnesses and having actual records of who was on the ground on the day and we’re all to believe that the police can’t knock on someone’s door because they don’t know where to start?

    Again, the CORE problem for relatives, is not that SF has negotiated secret deals for it’s own guys in the past decade, it’s that from the 70’s onwards there has been an unwillingness of the state to prosecute it’s own forces for murder, whether it be murder committed in the full gaze of international media or at some checkpoint when some psycho decides to shoot a little girl in the back.

  • Mick Fealty

    You made that assumption, not me. Consider though that Adams has been secretly lobbying for a blanket amnesty for his Volunteers. That’s why and how the victims have been shafted by SF since 2000.

  • Morpheus

    ‘lobbying’ or ‘lobbied and set straight’? What is ‘lobbying’ based on?

  • Politico68

    Mick, Adams securing agreement with the Brits regarding IRA volunteers, can only be regarded as a shafting of victims if he agreed to allow it be applied to state murderers, and he didn’t, so no shafting. Again it appears that desperation for some skinning is leading some to conclude that Adams intentionally made a deal with the Brits concerning Republicans that ne KNEW would burn the families and victims. And as is the norm there is zip evidence, ziltch. In fact the premise is so fatally flawed in so many ways as to appear intellectually delinquent.