After RTE’s Prime Time on collusion, will the Irish government dare to put pressure on the British?

One of the frustrations of the TV market in these multichannel days is that we’re a long way from “open skies” broadcasting for viewing on demand. This applies to BBCi Player if you live in the Republic and the RTE Player if you live as I do in Britain. This means I don’t get to see the RTE Prime Time documentary on Collusion.  People in the Republic are much more likely to access the two BBC documentaries on Britain’s Secret Deals as many of them are within transmitter range or get BBC on cable.  But the frustrating restrictions  reduce the public impact of the programmes where it matters most – in Great Britain.

It may be a coincidence that the two national broadcasters have made powerful programmes on British state collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. Or they may be making attempts in parallel to set a legacy agenda that was supposed to be revived by the Stormont House Agreement. The question is now, how much pressure will the British government feel as a result of the documentaries?

A lot less than they should is the answer. Panorama landed with a dull thud, Prime Time probably likewise aside from ritual calls for a response  and a doomed DUP attempt to embarrass the Sinn Fein leadership.  Even during the Troubles Northern Ireland was notoriously not box office. So well done to  BBC NI current affairs under Jeremy Adams for their coup in bouncing the story onto the network. But there are limits to what the BBC networks will absorb. It’s ironic that the reporter on the RTE doc was John Ware  who together with Peter Taylor comprised  the most distinguished  investigative reporting duo for the BBC into the Troubles.

So the impact will be low.  In Britain today terrorism is about jihadism, foreign and domestic.  But it’s not as if old news can’t be revived. Look at the impact of the Hillsborough inquests and note the calls for a public  inquiry into the “ battle of Orgreave.”    If it’s truly “British” ( or rather perhaps, “English”), it still plays.

The basic problem is that British opinion declared victory in 1998 and washed their hands of a business which they feel is essentially not theirs. Then there’s the sheer scale of potential inquiry even beyond collusion, which most  of the establishment apart from Nuala O’Loan it seems, recoil from.  Consider the six years and £10 million costs of the Chilcott inquiry into the comparatively narrow issue of political responsibility for the Iraq war and compare it with the scale of the Troubles legacy over 40 years.

It is of course dishonest of successive British governments to shuffle off responsibility to the hapless Assembly. Minor reforms  to the inquest system and a reformed historic investigations unit  will make little difference to the snail’s pace of a clear-up rate. Is there anything that might force them into bolder action? The Irish government perhaps  which has been reticent about  putting on pressure  over the Dublin- Monaghan bombs, no doubt for fear of rocking the British-Irish boat? But as  the DUP  like to insist, the legacy is  Irish as well British business. This makes both of them accusers and accused.  Enda Kenny has taken a direct hand in promising Irish government cooperation over the Kingsmills massacre. Over this and other cases, he’s owed a quid pro quo.

There may be just a clue in Gerry Kelly’s remarks in the Assembly.   “… if we’re talking about the truth, I am for the truth coming out all over,” he declared. He for one has been far from reticent about his paramilitary activity. Will others follow his example?  Aside from the handlers, I can think of  no better way of exposing collusion than for former paramilitaries  to expose it . Sinn Fein leaders have often talked like this before, secure in the belief that the British authorities will not “jump first”. If the republicans were to offer some voluntary disclosure by some of those who those have served their time, it would be that bit harder for the British authorities to continue refusing to respond. It’s a long shot, I admit.

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  • Korhomme

    How much did the Savile inquiry cost? £200 million was suggested, and it took years, for a single ‘incident’. I could well see any government recoiling at the cost of any major ‘Troubles’ inquiry.

  • Spike

    in the spirit of friendly neighbourly relations I cant see the Fine Gael government doing too much to rock the boat. Due to possible costly legal repercussions, its maybe an area that both governments would like to steer clear from.

  • mickfealty

    This was only part one, part two is to follow…

    Complicity is a better word than collusion for most of what it covers. And, lest we forget, some degree of that complicity still obtains today, and possibly for better reasons, but it results in the same thwarting of justice for some victims…

    I doubt very much whether Mr Kelly actually wants it out all over. Even his rather innocuous role as postman for those letters of comfort caused him some embarrassment at the time.

    Where SF leaders have had a chance to make a clean breast of their paths with legal cover they have generally declined. McGuinness at Savile, the IRA unit at Smithwick.

    As I noted in this morning’s #SluggerReport it’s not surprising to see why. Those working for the British state during the Troubles are largely retired or dead, that’s simply not the case for the senior ranks of IRA.

    Meanwhile the victims (and their families) are trapped in the middle between raised expectations and a pragmatic settlement which bars the way to an open and honest investigation of the past.

  • WindowLean

    I think the Boston Tapes fiasco would ensure most paramilitaries will keep their mouths firmly closed in the future.

  • Brian Walker

    Mick, my main argument as you know is for conditional opening the records. The Finucane family’s call for knowing “who pulled the strings ” as well as those who pulled the trigger is compelling, whether the string pullers are alive or dead. If alive, immunity would be necessary. Nuala O’Loan’s repeated claims I’ve heard her make in person that collusion cost ” hundreds and hundreds of lives requires an answer. Disclosure might not only go towards expiating state abuses but reveal the “good story” that people like Trevor Ringland would presumably like to be told

    Republican omerta may well survive anything but at least they would eb deprived of the excuse of considerable British non -cooperation. The state needs better to acknowledge its particular obligations to the rule of law, otherwise the republican narrative of a war or conflict between two equal contending parties retains a lot of credibility.

    The British establishment still seems obsessed with “the propaganda war ” long after it has ceased to alter facts on the ground, and without apparently noticing that if there still is such a war, they’re not doing particularly well at it

  • onionist

    The overwhelming bulk of the cost was caused by the MoD. Now it’s used as a reason to deny justice. Quite convenient how the state fabricated that rationale for denying justice, eh?

    Of course all the UK state has to do is release the Stalker, Samson, etc reports not lock them under 75 & 100 year secrecy.

    Convict the guilty, protect the innocent – but we all can plainly see that is a price the UK will not pay.

  • onionist

    Why is it you always censor & ban people bringing up british crimes on republican threads, but you are always in there rapidly to derail criticism of british crimes by bringing up republican crimes?

  • Korhomme

    Unsurprisingly, I see the present illnesses in N Ireland in surgical terms. Beneath the surface there are multiple festering abscesses full of pus; the treatment is also surgical, to lance the abscesses and release the contamination. Until this is done, the patient can’t recover.

  • onionist

    I concur, bring it all out into the light of day, let the chips fall where they may.

    There appears to be this false belief that recognizing the crimes of the british and unionist state will justify republican crimes.

    On the bright side the “war” being fought between the british and republican sides is narrative not violent, so progress of a sort.

  • Korhomme

    I’m optimistic enough to expect that it *all* will come out—collusion, the disappeared, OTRs and all the rest—one day. And realistic enough to realise that probably won’t be in my lifetime.

  • the rich get richer

    It has been suggested that was the thinking behind this Huge Cost ! !

    And it is hard to argue with that thinking. Those Politicians are more slippery than we can even imagine.

  • kalista63

    Isn’t it astonishing that questiionisng the state is so easily quashed by playing the loyalty card. We then have the tinfoil hat castigation along with conspiracy theorists. People like Jeffrey Donaldson can simply no countenance any critique of the state or the security forces, even when unionists were the victim, as if the state was a stack of cards made from tissue paper.

    The CSA situation illustrates how alive tyhe state protection of the powerful, to whatever degree, is. When an alleged victim of sex abuse by politicians spoke of seeing other children killed by a politician, David Cameron was quick to speak up and call those, who were concerned, ‘concpiracy theorists’. As it turned out, the Met were taking it seriously and are investigating the accusations, saying that the man was a very viable witness.

    Then we have Greville Janner and the curious case of a dementia sufferer who is continuing in his business dealings as well as in the House of Lords.

    Curiously, the BBC have been very poor, among some other media, in addressing these issues after they report initially. Thankfully, this is 2015 and people are trawling the net and are able to find, for example, how Janner is listed on company and HoL records, then tweeting their findings.

    Then this weekend we had the total Snowden balls up. The Times went all Sunday World and played the unnamed sources game and the article was pulled apart within a few hours. BBC News 24 was smart enough to know that the gig was up but continued to report the article AS FACT on its sheep fodder BBC1 news. Of course, this was done at a time when America was looking to recover from losing its snooping charter and Britain was looking to widen their’s, at the same time, statues were being erected to Snowden.

    As someone has pointed out, much of the bill for Saville was due to fighting the MOD (which is actually the governement) in attempts to block/frustrate Saville and individual cases by individual soldiers We also have the astonishing situation were files have not been handed by Britain to the Irish government regarding the Dublin/Monaghan bombings. We have troops who killed innocent people here protected by the state such as Majella O’Hare, their name being known.

    Meanwhile, conformist unionists will complain that its always attacks on the state, on loyalists, the cops, the army and its always about them. Well, the exact same machinations were used to kill innocent Protestants too by the use of loyalists and republicans (we’re pretty sure the state was involved in the Shankill bombing) with some sort of Stolkholm Syndrome, beaten dog loving its master, madness.

  • John Collins

    Your spot on. Ken McGinnis almost smugly stated that he named two terrorists to Mrs Thatcher during the programme. They were liquidated a few days later. He said he was quite happy they were killed even though nothing was proved against them I pointed this out on this thread as evidence that some of those atrocities were ordered from the highest level and it has been deleted . Why?

  • kalista63

    Black Adder might say, they’re more slippery that an eel in a Moss Bross suit fashioned out of the finest Vaseline

  • kalista63

    Are you saying that those Paras who fired on Bloody Sunday are, by some force of metaphysics, older than Martin McGuinness now?

  • aquifer

    When dealing with secretive murder conspiracies the best intelligence, which can lead to evidence, will often come from accomplices. The management of these agents and the tradeoffs involved is a moral quagmire made worse by everyday mistakes and bad luck, even before ulterior motives are considered. The state kept records, but criminal conspiracies systematically concealed the few they made, so more apparently compromising material is available against the state.

    However the state is not obliged to yield to every gang of armed blackmailers who happen to come along. For if it did we are inviting a succession of political and religious cranks who cannot muster enough votes in free elections to band together to force us to submit to whichever religious economic or sexual scheme pleases their most vicious leaders at the time.

    Maybe when we cannot really control the availability of firearms, the price of freedom is learning to love brave informers with blood on their hands.

  • onionist

    It will eventually come out, once all of the murderers in the british state are dead.

    Preventing justice is collusion. The british state remain terrorists.

  • kalista63

    So far we have had records destroyed and gone missing including for (and this is comedy gold) asbestos contamination, even though there are professionals who deal with that.

  • Slater

    No informants no peace.

  • anne

    anyone, wherever you are, should be able to view the Collusion documentary by clicking on the links provided here

  • kalista63

    Nice one. Its also on Youtube

  • mickfealty

    If it was deleted it’s because you’ll have broken the basic rule of the site, which is play the ball not the man.

  • mickfealty

    Not following you Paul.

  • mickfealty

    I was bringing it up under the heading of collusion, and in direct response to Brian’s mention of Gerry Kelly. Keir Starmer’s report suggests that there’s special consideration still being given to some former non state actors.

    Why is this relevant? Because it is a near certain guarantee that most of those innocent victims on the programme won’t get what they are looking for if they are expecting SF to deliver it for them.

  • onionist

    I’m sorry. SF? How are they involved in collusion and murder. Aren’t they a political party? Surely you mean the IRA, they were the ones doing the killing & bombing. Right?

    Anyway, try to stay on topic – you are usually so good at that on threads banging on about republicans, aren’t you? Or from now on are we allowed to raise british crimes on republican threads when they are relevant? Or will it be back to banning & censoring on those threads again?

  • Starviking

    Ballot box and Armalite…

  • james

    *political wing

  • the rich get richer

    I suppose they could have been older than Martin McGuinness then so it would be weird if they were now older than him ! !

  • Janos Bingham

    As one of those “professionals”(I run a specialist cleaning company) dealing with asbestos contamination is not in anyway fun, never mind attaining the heights of “comedy gold”.

    Presently there is a primary school in Antrim closed due to an asbestos find. Can you imagine the parents’ attitudes if they were to be told that the children’s asbestos contaminated books were to be ‘cleaned’ and reused?

    Asbestos contaminated materials are bagged, taken away and disposed off. Any shortcuts in this process would expose the building’s management to a potential world of legal hurt.

  • Brian Walker

    I’m obliged to Slugger centre for telling me that people in GB can now watch the programme on the RTE Player. Below is the link.

  • kalista63

    I’m a child of the 70’s, well aware of the dangers. That’s not what I meant was funny but as it has been an excuse used serveral times (including in GB recently re. CSA files) regarding evidence.

  • kalista63

    Active troops tend to be in their 20’s, around the same age as Marty was then

  • John Collins

    Sorry Mick. I was mistaken. I had posted on that other thread on basically this same subject. Again sincere apologies although overall I do think the McGinnis statement was a very telling one.

  • mickfealty

    On message, surely?

  • Janos Bingham

    I’m still not getting what is amusing about asbestos contamination as an “excuse”.

    It is a very real concern. I can understand why people would err on the side of caution when faced with asbestos. I dealt with clearing a book store when an old asbestos ceiling collapsed. I was asked could I guarantee that every book would be clear of every fibre. I could not. The whole lot went to landfill.

    I’m sure the police or the CSA will have recorded the asbestos contamination. They would have been required to bring in specialists to assess/deal with the problem.

    I do remember some talk in the trade some years back about a problem at the police base at Carrickfergus (I think). It was an old 60’s factory site that I’m sure is riddled with asbestos pipework, roofs etc.

  • Peter McCallion

    Brian, you can watch this programme on RTE player. I’m in England and I watched it last night.

  • chrisjones2

    “Enda Kenny has taken a direct hand in promising Irish government cooperation over the Kingsmills massacre.” Only up to a point

    What was so stunning on the RTE documentary was the sheer lack of balance. It seemed that the RUC and Army only ever ‘colluded’ with loyalists and that they were the only ones colluding. It was all gushing perfidious Albion, Evil Army and Bigoted RUC. How then did they think PIRA was beaten?

    Strange that was no mention of the arming of the IRA by Charles Haughey using stolen Government money. Not a snifter. There was no mention of collusion in the suppression of evidence in cross border murders on the orders of Irish MInisters. The refusal to hand over forensic evidence? All brushed away – even though it was clearly evidenced in recent Irish Government inquiries. Perhaps there just wasn’t time. Nor was there space to look at the other side of Collusion between the Brits and PIRA and SF – as Spotlight in NI had done just the month before.

    And noone at any time asked why, if this was all some sort of Government orchestrated plan, so many of those involved were arrested (by the hater peelers) and convicted and sent to gaol for a very long time by the whole apparatus of the British State. Surely that must have been an odd conspiracy then?

    Then we had the ‘Credible’ John Weir – that well known sectarian murderer – opining that the Government aim was to start a civil war so they could let lose the UDR who had the guns. Eh? One minute they are using those guns to murder Catholics wholesale and the next they want to provoke the Provos so they can do it officially.

    There is no doubt that there was collusion. or that it was a huge problem. Or that some of it – for example the FRU – was officially sanctioned at least within the Army if not in Government. But even when majoring on the FRU it was portrayed as all one sided. No mention of Steaknife and his role in hollowing out PIRA – or was I asleep during that bit?

    Now let me be clear that if there was collusion – and its clear there was – all that should be investigated and the people involved gaoled. Just in the same way as we should do with the Provos and Irish Officials who were involved.
    But none of that will ever happen – or even be admitted – because its just too raw and awful to tell the truth

  • chrisjones2

    “Meanwhile the victims (and their families) are trapped”

    …I agree. And noone gives a damn ….not least the politicians who fawn over them grubbing for votes

  • chrisjones2

    “The Finucane family’s call for knowing “who pulled the strings ” as well as those who pulled the trigger is compelling, ”

    I want to know who pulled all the strings ………including the senior IRA Commanders in Belfast whose names are never mentioned for some strange reason.

    And why was Dame Nuala so coy about who asked her not to dig into the past then we can ask them why? And ask her why she made so little progress? And if it was because she was blocked then why didn’t she resign and shout it from the rooftops 10 years ago?

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…but some of them were always politicians were they

  • chrisjones2

    I think he sounded like a sad and desolate Colonel Blimp figure. It seems he recently tried to join the Conservatives in the Lords and cant understand why they refused to have him. He might watch his tirade against the PM ‘the boy Cameron’ and see why

  • John Collins

    Well Chris you are probably right. I was so shocked when he made that statement as he implicated a person who he claimed acted on his advice and one who was not here to answer for herself. It is even more weird when he is looking for admittance to the Tory Party, although I though as a member of the Conservative and Unionist Party he should little have little difficulty getting admission to that Party

  • Brian Walker

    Look, we cannot expect attitudes towards terrorists to be governed entirely by the rule of law. To conduct an argument along these lines is unauthentic. Let’s not pretend to be shocked every time we hear that lines were crossed.

    Lots of people like Ken Maginnis were delighted to hear that so-and- so was put six foot under. He had plenty of good reasons for thinking so. I knew him in his prime.
    It would be refreshing if more along these lines was admitted and a relief from the humbug that defends the rule of law as a rigid orthodoxy like the mediaeval church.

    The question is how often and how far were lines crossed and with what results. And the results were not as great as might have been expected.

    The SAS-trained RUC Headquarters Mobile Support Unit formed in the mid-70s seemed a good idea at the time, to concentrate local knowledge and the permanent policing rather than rotating army units.

    . But then they start shooting the wrong people and
    attract spiraling reprisals, so back we go closer to the rule of law after the lamentable exercises like fitting up John Stalker and trying to blacken the
    reputation of the forensic specialist Dr Bertie Irwin over his critical reports of interrogation in Castlereagh .
    I see he died in March aged 90 and was made OBE IN 1995 in a sort of apology. So yet again
    the rule of law comes back bloodied but unbowed.

    Personally as I reported scores of incidents down the years I was always amazed there were not many more Glenanne gangs – or indeed perhaps there were more. But they were beyond the pale, degenerates.

    There is an important analysis to be done about how the early toleration of the UDA led to it incubating killers, a strategy that got out of control long before the ceasefires

    It was no compensation when they decided to catch some of the most pathological/.

  • Thomas Girvan

    It would be an interesting programme if it was based upon the Republicans who colluded with the British security forces.
    Might open a few cans of worms.

  • onionist

    That’s too pithy to convey any meaning, you’ll have to elaborate.

  • Barneyt

    We will go around in circles and achieve nothing if we dont define an entry point. I’ve made this point before, but was met with “balance”…the type of balance that adds further momentum to the circle I have mentioned.

    Yes, its wrong that civilians were shot down by the state and yes it is wrong that state representatives were gunned down by “terrorists”.

    The state has to be examined as a first port of call, and as hurtful as this is, other matters will have to rest. The state is supposed to uphold the law. The wrong doing of a state that establishes such laws needs to be examined as a higher priority.

    We need to try to start pulling the thread from the government side, and not through those than commanded and led the groups that were infiltrated or knowingly participated in collusion. That is secondary and it will eventually come out in the wash.

    Of course, the main insurgency rests on the Nationalist and republican side, so we run the risk of appearing biased, as it may be that the majority of deeds propped up and propelled by the state served mainly to take out republicans.

    I don’t intend to dismiss or lessen grievance elsewhere, but the finger needs to point at those that are supposed to establish and uphold the law…and in particular those that choose to circumvent it. First port of call…but not the last.

  • Chris Jones

    ..apparently he does,