Panorama’s exposure of greater collusion was a fine effort but it will make no difference

The BBC  are to be commended for visiting “ boring old Northern Ireland “ in a Panorama  special on the legacy issues of collusion, Britain’s Secret Deals, reported by Darragh McIntyre. To those who follow the detail there was little that was entirely new, although there was graphic fresh evidence and it was high time it was presented to the wider audience.  The bizarre detail that the rifle used in the murderous attack on Sean Graham’s bookies ended up in the Imperial war Museum was, literally, an exhibition of collusion in itself.

McIntyre undermined but not did manage to overturn the verdict of de Silva, that although there were “shocking levels of  collusion, there was no “ overarching state conspiracy.”  But “the more murders are investigated the more collusion comes to light.” His conclusion that collusion was at work in “perhaps thousands of murders” seems to have confirmed by Lord Stevens in a conversation  which wasn’t  filmed but  which is covered in his still unpublished reports . These reports can at least now be used in evidence.

As he  bolted from McIntrye in the street, it was  notable that  the army commander at the time of the Finucane murder in 1989 General  Sir John Waters, was the first to break the wall of silence over de Silva by calling his conclusions  “deeply unfair”   over  managing agents  and  facilitating the deniability  of  ministers. And that a former Assistant Chief Constable Raymond  White  defended  the security  forces’ “ robust response” to the IRA campaign while disavowing  overarching state conspiracy.  These snatches whetted the appetite for much more. But who can compel further disclosure?

Despite a wealth of evidence that IRA agents were also  protected, Panorama’s report will inevitably strengthen the republican case that the Troubles were a war between the IRA  and a state that supported the loyalists. It can  be answered  in part by  open discussion supported by evidence of the state’s record against loyalists but  more candidly, in answering the question: if  the use of informers  and agents was so prevalent – or as I’ve added later, thought to be  such a great idea almost from the start, why did it take so long to bring the major paramilitaries to the points of ceasefire and final cessation?  Unfortunately there is a total unwillingness within the British establishment to answer these questions  or allow  researchers access to the public record  to do so.  The Finucane  question of ” who pulled the strings not the triggers” remains shamefully open. Frank discussion  of the counter insurgency strategy would be legally compromising and there is no serious pressure to find another way. One thing is clear: it will not emerge in a search for individual justice (added later).

As we’ve been told ad nauseam, future  major public enquiries are out and the whole issue of the Troubles legacy is being sloughed off to the hapless Assembly as if  it were purely a local matter. Be sure, the authorities as much as unconvicted terrorists will continue to  get away with it.  Any idea that the paramilitaries would corroborate the facts of collusion by breaking omerta is wholly fanciful. The  conspiracy of silence is mutual and politicians in all parties are accessories.

The new efforts to deal with the past are inadequate before they start. Indeed the smack of  tokenism. The chief constable George Hamilton will give a new Historic  Investigations Unit his support, but the present is his priority not the past.  Challenged in court  he has been forced  to release case documents on Loughinisland to the redoubtable  police ombudsman  Michael Maguire  who has launched a fresh investigation.  But the gaff was   blown with the Justice minister David Ford admitting the resources for  tackling the Troubles legacy were “ totally inadequate.”  In fact the £150 million has already been described by Nuala O’Loan as “contemptible. The funding is in any case  subject to the ratification of the Stormont House Agreement.

In the film, the evidence of victims and survivors was heart rending.  Informers were protected regardless of the  identity of victims. Alan Black still feels guilt after  37 years,  as the sole survivor of the Kingsmill massacre of 10 Protestants in  the climax to a hideous  spate of sectarian murders  in south Armagh  in 1976, at a time when the paramilitaries were on token ceasefire .

In the dreadful cases of WPC Coleen McMurray and the journalist Martin O’Hagan, the evidence was strong enough for McIntryre to present suspects on camera. One told how he designed the mechanism of the bomb that killed McMurray , the other drove off when challenged over the murder of O’Hagan . Why has no fresh action yet been taken against Colm Murphy, already found to have civil liability over the Omagh bomb and now a suspect in the Kingsmill massacre?  And so many others ?

The authorities have given various answers, none of them entirely satisfactory.

Much evidence has been lost  or never gathered under pressure of events. Panorama exposed lies about some cases.

A new Historic Investigations Unit is to be set up, allegedly more rigorous than its predecessor,  but underfunded and not in any case fully in operation for two years.

Also a  more searching and faster inquest system presided over by a judge  who presumably  can put a rocket under the police ( who may still plead lack of resources).

But all of this at best will only scratch the surface. Lobbyists like Amnesty may make their ritual  cases but it will make no difference.

A calculation has  almost certainly  been made that the early release  scheme of the Good Friday Agreement amounts to a de facto amnesty in all but the grossest cases where the evidence  is  thrust down their throats and in spite of the disingenuous denials of here today gone tomorrow  ministers who trot out the line to take. Everybody knows, nobody cares enough  to demand honesty. Victims are victims twice  over.

Neither the state nor the surviving paramilitaries will give away any more than they absolutely  must. Lack of resources and the absence of official pressure  will guarantee that.  Galling it may be to admit it, the human rights lobbies in Britain have  higher  priorities. The BBC has done its investigative duty but  there will be significant follow up.

The reputation of the British state will rest on the peace process. Questions over how the war was waged that may properly be addressed to all involved will continue  to be avoided. The belief that a more fulfilled peace depends  on dealing with  the past should now come under question as realities begin to be faced. Perhaps a few will gain satisfaction but most will not.

The search for individual justice risks becoming the obstacle to discovering  limited truth.  Only  united public pressure following  immunity from prosecution  might deliver anything more.

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  • james

    If I did I would certainly lose no time in contacting Barra McGrory about it post haste.

  • james

    I’m back. So what’s your point? The Chinese are a-coming…and they lurve the Irish?

  • james

    Steeling their teeth? You do know that James Bond and Jaws were both fictional, don’t you?

  • james

    Erm…I’m from Fermanagh and a ‘British’ withdrawal (whatever that means) Is by no means ‘fair enough’ with a large number of my countymen.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Sorry James, just sidestepping the majoritarian argument. If the majority of fermanagh wanted to leave the UK back in ’21, well, fair enough. If not, fair enough.

  • Spike

    Am I wrong to expect certain standards from public servants in whatever guise they come? They knew what they were getting themselves into when they joined the security forces-and were to uphold the law-to be the ‘good guys vs bad guys’. Of course not all of them are supposed to be whiter than white but we are not talking about 1 or 2 small isolated incidents here. Intelligence gathering,touts, petty crime,favours,blind eyes etc is one thing but the extent of the utter chaos allowed is Unacceptable. Where does the line stop? What are the equations? For example, is it ok for 10 innocent people to be allowed to die if a bomber is caught? That’s starting to get into collateral damage territory. A dirty little war indeed

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Working in media in LOndon brought me into contact with any number of people who had experienced this kind of abuse, and the “poor backgrounds” characterisation is a gross simplification. People such as Cyril Smith (and those of his political and media “associates” so far unnamed publicly) preyed on anyone. “Poaching” the sons and daughters of their “friends” was a surprisingly safe bet, and the interwoven networks of influence that blocked the poor from justice would sometimes in this context block young and impressionable adolescents whose parents own status depended on not rocking the boat. Just think of the harm done to families by this kind of corruption.

    The poor, friendless and defenceless suffered, unquestionably, but even the “privileged” experienced this foulness, and have their own share of lives despoiled and broken. This is not simply a class issue, no matter how very convenient that may be for orthodox left/right politics. The real story is far more complex.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Running informers and licensing them to avoid criminal prosecution for murders in order to protect their cover, is “collusion”. Perhaps the most obvious instance of this outside of the actual sanctioning of murders is the continuing silence over the request that the possible involvement of security services in what went on at Kincora is fully and transparently examined.

    It is clear to any reasonable person that anti-terrorist policing here involved far, far more than simply the exchange of information.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The Keep: “the real crime is the cover up”.

    And the support of those who continue that cover up by “perfectly decent people” who blind side that “inconvenience” in order to continue to support their own “side”, orange, green, or red,white & blue.

  • Zig70

    150m not enough? Again we have people saying there is no money for welfare but there is £150m available for this. Most people would expect that it won’t help anyone except those who know how to work the gravy train. Everyone here has their own truths. Nobody is going to be held accountable except the pawns.

  • Reader

    Brian Walker: your comments don’t address the question which was: Was it worth it?
    That’s actually a different question, but I’ll have a go: ‘Almost certainly’
    Maybe Panorama should investigate that one for a change?
    My recollection of the time between the IRA ceasefires in the 1990s was of the IRA repeatedly abandoning bomb runs (and bombs) due to checkpoints; and car loads of armed loyalists being picked up crossing peace lines; with corresponding chilling threats from the paramilitaries against informers. I think that was the end-game.

  • Reader

    Well, SFs position has always been, in respect of all the bad stuff, that you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.. Trouble is – no omelette either.

  • babyface finlayson

    An extravagant claim.
    If true that even-toed ungulate would be your ancestor,not your descendant

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Absolutely – anti-terrorist policing involves being inside the gangs as they operate. The day to day working of it is by its nature morally grey, that’s unavoidable; but it needn’t be morally black. I think we as a public need to educate ourselves more in how to think through these dilemmas morally. I’m glad to see the school my son may be going to next year now teaches something called PSP, which is basically a practical moral philosophy course. So much of the debate on informers in NI in the Troubles is absent of any sense of the actual dilemmas faced by officers and decision-makers in anti-terrorist policing and surveillance.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    We absolutely are entitled to expect the anti-terrorist operations to work to a set of rules and for them to be publicly accountable. You are quite right to feel anger at incidents and individuals who took the p*** and actually caused a lot of harm in these situations.

    It’s not OK for 10 innocent people to die to catch one bomber. There is a relatively well developed body of philosophy on this area, known as “the trolleybus dilemma” or “the trolley problem”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

    The security services were dealing in these kind of choices day to day and at a macro level. Clearly they made a lot of mistakes and in some cases abused their positions. But overall, the alternative of not engaging and letting things go is not automatically the best choice. It is deceptive: on the surface it seems to leave operators less guilty but the outcomes of inaction are or can be much worse. We have the luxury now of standing back and analysing their choices, like backseat drivers. It’s a different and much harder thing to be on the ground making those choices not knowing how things will turn out.

  • Spike

    Indeed, hindsight is a wonderful thing and I’ve no doubt there were honourable men, with good intentions, within the security forces who took the wrong options at times. I would have hoped the hierarchy who were not as emotionally close to the operatives had vetted, analysed and taken decisions to uphold a certain moral code.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The word collusion, on one definition I’ve just looked up, is “secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy in order to deceive others”. It’s a very pejorative term. It seems to be used in the Northern Ireland context for a range of types of infiltration of paramilitary groups which were not co-operating or conspiring with those groups, but rather seeking to undermine, confuse and stymy them. So I think the word is a problematic one for talking about the kinds of work the security services had to do and frames the argument in such a way that distorts our view of legitimate and necessary undercover police work.

    When we look at how the FBI operates against the Mafia, we’ll find very similar situations arising. It’s in the nature of tackling these big, organised, well funded ad extremely violent groups.

  • Old Mortality

    Spike
    If the most exacting standards of conduct had been adopted by the security forces, is it more or less likely that the IRA’s campaign would have led to an even greater number of deaths?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes I did wonder what on earth they were talking about there – shows a bit of a cavalier attitude to numbers, at the very least.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Good call Brian on the supergrass trial collapses. If I may speculate …

    One wonders if that changed the calculation on the part of the security services when it came to the aims and trajectory of running informers. That is, did they move from treating the ‘turned’ terrorist as a potential trial witness, looking for the right moment to extract them from the organisation to cash in the information chips, towards seeing them as someone who should stay as long as possible in situ, was perhaps more expendable, and whose credibility in a court situation no longer mattered. The informer can then be used, I would suppose, in a more offensive, creative way.

    Moving from an end game of results in court/prison towards an end game of results “on the streets”, if that’s what happened, would have brought about about quite a different modus operandi. Might this account for some of the more “wild west” operating methods and failure of oversight?

  • Nevin

    “Panorama’s exposure of greater collusion was a fine effort”

    Trevor Ringland has disagreed and May Quinn has questioned the sincerity of Enda Kenny’s promise and the Panorama claim that the Kingsmills massacre was an immediate revenge attack:

    “He promised he would have the files sent to us but what good is a promise if you don’t keep it?” she said. “It was just his way of getting off the hook.”

    She said that BBC Panorama had reported on Thursday that the 1976 shootings took place in revenge for UVF murders the night before.

    “But the HET report said that this was not true and that the Kingsmills shootings were planned many months beforehand,” she added.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    very good point on “chapters” – spot on.

    You can see the chapters in the killing patterns year by year, if you look through the stats. I’ve drawn up my own list which goes like this, using years as a rough marker (and I’ve put in total of deaths in each period and relative killing percentages Repub/Loyalists/Sec Forces):

    Phase 1 = 1969-70 – the start of the Troubles (42 deaths; 48/36/12
    Phase 2 = 1971-76 – paramilitaries in full swing (1,752 deaths; 53/33/12
    Phase 3 = 1977-1990 – IRA’s “long war” (1,249 deaths; 71/18/10
    Phase 4 = 1991-94 – Loyalist tit-for-tat (343 deaths; 48/48/5)
    Phase 5 = 1995-98 – ceasefires to Good Friday year (103 deaths; 60/36/1)

    It’s noticeable how the percentage attributable to the security forces reduces throughout. Loyalism went off a cliff after 1976, returning only in the early 90s to the tit for tat of the early 70s, but at a much lower level.

    Republicans, the engine behind the Troubles, kept going throughout.

    In their “long war” phase as I’ve marked it here, they killed 23 people for every 1 Republican paramilitary that died; Loyalists killed 6 for every 1 of them that died; meanwhile the security forces by contrast lost 5 people for every 1 life they took. Overall, Republican terrorists killed 5 people for every one of them that died, Loyalists killed 7 for every one of them that died and the security forces killed one third of a person for every one of them that died.

    That’s why when Republicans in particular have a go at the security forces’ record during the Troubles, some of us bristle.

  • Skibo

    And how do you balance the death at the hands of a law breaker with that of a law enforcer? One sworn to take life, one sworn to protect life.

  • Skibo

    Perhaps a withdrawal would have been bloodier but may not have gone on for so long and would any more deaths have occurred, I’m not so sure. We would have ended up with the final solution of a united Ireland a whole lot earlier.
    Sinn Fein have signed up for the policy of self determination with locks that protect the minority.
    The sections within the previous agreement relating to the Irish language, the Maze and other “irish” related topics have been stalled and ignored to the best of Unionism’s ability.
    So much for equality for minorities. Perhaps this is why Sinn Fein are holding DUP to what they believe was agreed on Welfare and not accepting the empty promises of the past.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the final solution to the British problem?

  • Skibo

    Brits out should be replaced with British rule out.
    We look on St Patrick as a Saint and don’t label him British or Irish, just Christian and from before the time of the reformation so all can claim him. I look at all born on this island as Irish and their claim to live here is as legal for those who are ten years as those who’s forefathers were hundreds of years before. I just cannot see how being part of the UK is any more beneficial where London’s needs are superfluous to all others.

  • Skibo

    Even the British accept it as the final solution. When Unionist parties accept it, we are on the home straight.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It is hard; the other side of that is that law enforcers are legally obliged to use force in certain circumstances. Their duties put them in the way of violent confrontation and they don’t seek it out. They need to be cut much more slack, surely, because of what they are obliged to do, compared to people who choose to instigate violence.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The British that matter in the decision are the Ulster British – and they don’t accept it.

  • Skibo

    The British that matter are those that bankroll here and their patience is wearing thin. We are a drain on their resources if all that is repeated financially is believed.

  • Skibo

    And there you have the knub of the problem. You say the use of violence is acceptable to right a wrong but do not accept others right to use violence to right the wrong of partition.
    Partition was done over the barrel of a gun (German guns at that).

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I didn’t say violence was acceptable to right a wrong. I said in any state the state security forces have monopoly on the use of force. That’s a statement of the obvious. It puts particular duties upon those working for the state who are entitled to use force in protection of the law but also means they should be accorded understanding when they are put in that situation.

    And partition wasn’t a wrong either. All nationalists recognised that in the Good Friday Agreement. Do you not go along with with the GFA settlement?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    as a member of the Labour Party, I take a more democratic view. The country belongs to the people, not the bankers or the City; nor even the Treasury. It’s not all about the money. But I agree, NI needs to do better at paying its way financially.

  • Skibo

    Sorry where in the GFA did it say that partition was a great idea?
    Partition happened because Unionists formed a private army, armed them with German weapons and used the threat of violence to oppose home rule by the democratically elected government of the time.
    Have you ever looked at the meaning of terrorism?

  • Skibo

    As a member of the Labour party you should have seen that unless you pander to big business as Blair did power will always be beyond your grasp. Big business controls most publications and TV and unfortunately this is now the moral compass of the masses.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Constitutional Issues, 1(i):
    [the participants] “recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland.”

    Constitutional Issues, 1(iii):
    “…. the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union … it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people.”

    Sorry, what were you saying about partition being “a wrong”?

  • Skibo

    Well I read that as Irish Unity has equal status with British Unity and expresses the will of the people to decide. It does not state that the setting up of NI was right or wrong. Had we had that acceptance in 1920 and not had two jurisdictions created, we would have had a united Ireland in 1922. Can you accept that a wrong was done in 1920 for which we have suffered the consequences but we have to accept where we are now and need to move on

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m not as despairing as that. Labour has much of the press and big business against it, but I think the big factors against us were having an unappealing leader, the SNP situation in Scotland playing badly with Middle England, and the Tories managing to fool people into thinking Labour caused the financial crash. Labour analysis and policy when tested has been shown to be pretty popular.

    But look there’s a big review under way to get clear on what needs to be done to get the message across better. But it can certainly be done. Tory supporters control much of the press but broadcast media is much more open and is more influential.

    And there are limits to what even some of the press will buy from the Tories. If they tear themselves apart over Europe and carry on with their economic incompetence, this time without the cover of the Lib Dems (and blaming Labour being less and less credible), it’s not impossible Murdoch papers like the Times or even The Sun while not endorsing Labour may stop endorsing a mess of a Tory party driving the country into the ground. Let’s see what happens!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    wow that’s quite a piece of mental gymnastics 😉
    If Northern Ireland is legitimate now but wasn’t in 1921, when did it become legitimate then? And what changed to make it so (other than nationalism belatedly waking up)?

  • Skibo

    Sorry where did I say it is legitimate now. Accepting we have the mess we have now is not accepting legitimacy of its creation. Hardly Gymnastics

  • Skibo

    Agreed, the Euro referendum will be the rock David perishes on but I do wonder if he will turn it round with negotiations within Europe to offer a fudge with promises of new rules and “special” relationship of GB within the EU. He has the rest of this year to prepare the ground and next year to sell the idea.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    he’ll get something – which will be a fig leaf – and will win the referendum. But in the process, Tory party discipline may got to the wall. Some of them are seriously nutzoid over Europe and I’m hoping they make tits of themselves and turn on each other. What gives me hope there is that Cameron has announced he’s going – so many Tory MPs including possibly Cabinet members may be prepared to break rank and fight him quite openly, on the basis the next election will be fought under a different leader – they’ll be looking ahead to that. He may have to go earlier than he planned. And then what price Tory unity …?

  • Skibo

    Tory unity or can you see one of the cabinet ministers shmusing up to the DUP giving them a factor of safety and enough to limp on to the next election. Could be good for the North but don’t see it any advantage to Nationalists.

  • Skibo

    Most Unionists consider them sectarian bigots, some consider them even worse than that but as Paddy Kielty would say they were a better class of murdering bastards.

  • Skibo

    But they did use the very policy you mentioned with Internment but all that did was form a school for the IRA and show that the Government was only interested in solving the militant nationalist problem while virtually ignoring the issue of militant Loyalism.

  • Skibo

    I think if you talk to most army commanders that served in the north you will find they will you there was a war. Ever watched the clips of the British soldiers saluting the coffins of IRA volunteers during the first years of the troubles?

  • Zeno

    Enniskillen, La Mon, Bloody Friday, Jean McConville, Patsy Gillespie………. the list of war crimes committed by the IRA is as long and bloody, but that should keep you going.
    Do you not believe those were war crimes or do you not believe the IRA carried them out?

  • Skibo

    The gospel according to Zeno.
    Just because you say it doesn’t make it true. No doubt in 2000 years some cult will be repeating your statements word for word but evidence, that’s a different thing.
    I have never heard a Unionist politician condemn loyalist violence without bringing the IRA into it as if to give mitigation for Loyalist actions.

  • Zeno

    Loyalist paramilitaries are scum as were the IRA. They both murdered innocent people.
    Maybe you have some other narrative where the brave freedom fighters never murdered anyone and no atrocities were committed. So if the IRA didn’t do it, who did?

  • Skibo

    Can you accept that the allies committed war crimes during WW11? I don’t remember any being charged. The fact of soldiers being charged for their actions in Iraq was more down to their own stupidity in recording the abuse of Iraqi citizens.
    Can you accept that Unionists abused their power for the first seventy years of Stormont rule?
    Can you accept that the B specials were the storm troopers of that Proletariat.

  • Zeno

    Just because someone else committed war crimes does not make it ok. Are you excusing the Shankill Butchers for their war crimes ?

  • Skibo

    I am not excusing anyone of committing war crimes but do note that things happen during war conditions that would never be condoned during peace times.
    My problem is when you only want to go after republicans.
    Do you accept war crimes were perpetrated by all sides during WW11 but only the losing side got tarred with carrying them out.

  • Zeno

    My reply has been held for moderation because I used the word sc*m

  • Zeno

    Are you now saying the IRA did commit war crimes but shouldn’t be blamed.

  • Zeno

    “My problem is when you only want to go after republicans.”

    I certainly do not. My conversation was with Robin asking why he supports a party that contains members who murdered innocent civilians.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While I agree with you MU that all policing is managed through the running of informants, this in no way changes the core issue here that in our situation some of these informants were knowingly licensed to effectively become serial killers. Any “handlers” knowing about this were themselves guilty of “secret and illegal co-operation [and] conspiracy” and this culpability cannot be exonerated by a numbers game. Either law applies to all (and i’m one of those who cuts no slack for Republicans in this either) or it begins to credibly apply to none, which is were we are now standing. “Fiat justitia rust caelum” is the only manner in which anyone can scrape back to any moral high ground.

    For me, the ongoing evasions over what is still “to important to national security” to disclose regarding Kincora eloquently speak of how very far we still are from being governed by those who could honestly expect any decent person’s wholehearted support.

  • Carl Mark

    As long as its not the blood of your innocent child then I expect you would have a very different attitude when you found out their killer was protected by the police!

  • Carl Mark

    It is wonderful how you can so easily excuse state murder with a philosophy exercise.
    I am quite sure I could find another similar mind game to excuse just about anything.
    As I pointed out to OM I suspect it would be different if your child was one of those murdered by state agents.
    The Mount Vernon gang was to all intents and propose controlled by government agents, the random sectarian murders committed by them according to your theory shortened the war (your trolley bus thingy) perhaps you could explain to us (and I am sure it will comfort the families of the dead) how this helped shorten the war.

  • Carl Mark

    So the 30 year bombing and machine-gunning of Ulster people is the “cheeky savages fighting back” as you see it?
    tell me do you even recognise the discrimmation of the old unionist state, the UVF murders and all the rest.
    why does your history start with the Provos! in all your posts you behave as if unionist intransigence and violent is either irrelevant of reactionary .
    This highly selective view of what actually happened here is interesting.
    At every attempt at compromise Unionists opposed it, from snowballs to the UWC lockout, via sectarian murder and attacks on civil rights marchers!
    If any of these things even impact on your radar you attempt to minimise or excuse them.
    As to killing people in secret, yes they most certainly did that, the same organisation’s (UD/UFF) who carried out many killings are welcome enough in unionist circles.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes I do

  • MainlandUlsterman

    People are making moral judgments – so let’s make them fairly. I am quite prepared to make negative moral judgments about state operatives and expect to do so in many cases here. But I’ll make those judgments based on a fair appraisal of the options open to them and how well or badly they performed.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree with a lot of that. At the same time “licensed to become serial killers” is a slanted view – how can you have moles in terror groups that are ongoing, without falling foul of that?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Misguided. If you talk to people in the army, they don’t regard NI as a war properly so-called. But they are loose with language as many others do and have referred to it as a “war” at times. This doesn’t have much actual import though. “War” has a legal definition.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I fully agree that is a serious problem, MU, but when the state through its officers authorises the illicit murder of anyone, then the entire demarcation line between the state as the guardian and upholder of law and the political entities that oppose the state becomes foggy enough to offer a veneer of legitimacy to terrorism. That this presents an insurmountable problem as long as it is ignored is the core reality under all the hype.

    Yeats quite rightly says:

    “What if the Church and the State
    Are the mob that howls at the door?”

    This issue of the loss of authority entailed by any authorisation of illegal action is something that weighs morally against any attempt to create a resolution of issues here. How can you trust a state that permits criminal activity and then covers it up? Where does this end? That is how we end up with chronic issues such as Kincora, which will not simply go away.

  • submariner

    NI was not legitimate in 1921 and it is not legitimate now. It was imposed at the barrel of a gun against the democratic wishes of the majority.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    fine, at least you’re being clear on abandoning Good Friday

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “offer a veneer of legitimacy to terrorism”

    It doesn’t though – unless we let it. That is the crucial thing. This is why it’s important to contextualise the information about the running of informers. Otherwise, it gives succour to those who have always tried to claim terrorism is OK. It wasn’t OK and the state getting tough or even OTT in its struggle to stop terrorism does not make terrorism OK. It is a misplaced victim complex that allows state efforts against terror gangs to be treated in such a way. There are people who very much want the narrative to be wicked British state against poor little downtrodden Irish.

    Obviously all this stuff gives them ammunition for that distorted analysis but it’s still a distorted analysis. Why? We only have to look at the scale of killing by the IRA. Those numbers alone mean any argument that they were somehow acting only upon provocation by the state, only reacting to what was done to them, is utterly incoherent. Even if all allegations so far put forward were to be proved true – and that is far from clear – the state would still only have responsibility for a small proportion of the overall killings of the Troubles.

    There is no way out of this for Republicans. “Collusion” is a good smokescreen for them, and they’ll push the policing-blind view all they can, but ultimately it’s not anywhere near enough as a cover for the Armed Struggle. It just doesn’t hang together as an argument, nowhere near.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, I entirely agree with you that the PIRA campaign was utterly unacceptable morally, and that no amount of “whataboutery” should fog this strong fact, but what you appear to be suggesting is that extra-legal action by the state was somehow acceptable as a counter action. This is simply taking sides and justifying the unacceptable when employed by those we agree with.

    We have the entire structure of law and order to ensure personal rights liberties. It is always easy to say that those who do no wrong can be as free as they wish, but the real test of law, as with free speech, comes only when it needs to be applied for someone who you may feel does not in any way deserve its protection. You cannot have one law for the security services and another for the general public. At least you cannot have both things if you wish to build a society worth living in because it offers protection and nurture to all its citizens.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It isn’t justifying the unacceptable, Seaan. Personally, I’ve been very clear about saying I don’t find everything they did acceptable and I want people help to account.

    But I am pointing out major holes in the critique of the security services – most forcefully, that the running of informers was necessary, which is some people’s eyes makes the security services “complicit”, yet they had no choice but to run informers. I’m not at all defending any officers who lost sight of their task or acted ultra vires. But I am also deeply unimpressed and frankly very annoyed by critiques that try to demonise the whole infiltration effort, which was extremely difficult and dangerous, and claim the mistakes made somehow put the entire security forces on a par with the terrorists they were trying to stop. I’m not accusing you of this, but I’ve seen others on here making that argument. I think it is fundamentally unfair and intellectually dishonest.

    We need a rational, grown-up debate about what was and was not acceptable. If people don’t like the security forces anyway, they’re going to find a lot unacceptable; if they accept what they security forces were up against and trying to achieve, they may take a more lenient view on what some of the operatives did. But no one should condone wanton murder by anyone and no one should seek to place all the responsibility for the security services’ impossible life and death choices purely onto the security services.

    The law-abiding among us in society looked to them to infiltrate and frustrate the terror gangs. The non law-abiding terrorist sympathisers have even less of a leg to stand on – they were the ones causing the whole situation that security services had to try and solve. They can hardly blame the security services for the mess.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s always difficult to argue a case without bringing in serious pages of qualifications. I’d imagine, too, from what you say that we have a great deal more to agree on than to disagree over in this matter and I’m far from unaware that every weakness on any “side” will be fully exploited to discredit everything that “side” does.

    However, just as I feel that lines were crossed during the last war with the Area bombing campaign, so I strongly feel that the security services were seriously lax on important issues that have profoundly undermined their moral position in their “war on terror.” This behaviour was a gift to their foes, nothing less, and should not be offered any sort of leniency or excuse in my book. I was told growing up by those who had fought in two world wars that for any military action to stand any chance of success, no excuses must be allowed for ones own sides failings, all of which should be admitted and taken into account fully. That’s how I view this issue, not a game of political point scoring but an important moral issue whose “signature” will affect everything that comes after until it is finally brought to light without excuse or evasion. The same stands true of all PIRA, etc, has done and this too should be honestly and openly evaluated if we are ever to awake from the nightmare.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Well we can agree on that Seaan – well said.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Is this SF out-reach 😉

  • Spike

    who knows? obviously the moral high ground was worth sacrificing