Collusion – When The State Is The Lie

In his book, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, the veteran war correspondent and former divinity student Chris Hedges warned us that:

‘States at war silence their own authentic and humane culture. When this destruction is well advanced they find the lack of critical and moral restraint useful in the campaign to exterminate the culture of their opponents. By destroying authentic culture – that which allows us to question and examine ourselves and our society – the state erodes the moral fabric.’

RTE’s groundbreaking documentary on Collusion has already become part of the currency of a seemingly unbreakable media and political narrative ‘on dealing with the past’. The ‘vault’ of secrets confronts all sides with a moment of decision: to acknowledge that any transformation is contingent – not only on an opening to the past – but on a long overdue recognition that public violence in (y)our name closes down our intimate realms of ethical sensibility, truthful language, culture, and spirit. What’s left with which to cultivate the emergence of conditions for a civil peace?

"The Vault"

“The Vault”

  • james

    “they find the lack of critical and moral restraint useful in the campaign to exterminate the culture of their opponents.” I’m reminded of Sinn Fein’s perpetual tactics.

  • aquifer

    The ‘RA stole rock and roll. Thankfully the tide is back in.

  • Granni Trixie

    There is ample evidence in NI to support anthropologists assertion that after a war secrets tend to emerge. For instance even though de facto there is not an official policy or strategy for truth recovery, like a juggernaut, piecemeal narratives are leaching out of the pores of society and various constituencies of those impacted by the troubles are findimg a voice – almost weekly.

    This means in effect that these constructions exist despite them not suiting “combatants”.

    I can see the state succumbing eventually to moral pressure from the public and victims/survivors, opening up documents to scrutiny etc but not paramilitary representatives even if the state jumps first.
    And even if we get a plan sorted you would still have Unionist parties who remain in denial about the role of government and the state in the conflict.

    It has been so slow to get to this point of acknowledgement but I think that we have arrived at a crossroads – either we decide to act and resource uncovering the past or we draw a line. Either way the state still has responsibility to provide services for those most affected by the troubles.

  • Jag

    Was RTE’s 90-minute documentary last night really “groundbreaking”?

    The British strategy is to present collusion as a mistaken perception of what was really its infiltration of the (mostly) loyalist paramilitary organisations. Such infiltration “saved lives”. And the killings and all that carried out by the infiltrated organisations? That was just unavoidable collateral. The fact the killings and all that ,furthered the British military objectives? Well, that’s just coincidence dear boy!

    I don’t know why last night’s programme might be classified as “groundbreaking”. It dramatised reconstructions, but what did these add to the issue? Unrecognised actors and actresses playing the parts of those who are unfamiliar to most people in Ireland, balaclavaed loyalists rat-a-tat-tatting with their Sterling guns. I was bored by it in the end.

    In terms of interviewees, it featured John Weir the Glenanne gang member who was former RUC officer. John was convicted of murder in 1977 and of course kicked out of the RUC.

    Hugh Orde (former boss at the PSNI) and John Stevens (investigator into collusion) again confirmed there was infiltration and some evidence of maverick behaviour by some parts of the British security services, but nothing anywhere near sufficient to establish what most nationalists believe – that Britain, at its highest government levels, illegally authorised and resourced the military tactic of degrading its military enemy and terrorising its enemy’s support.

    Michael Mates’s contribution seemed to me to be the rawest, and I wondered if there was a case for lifting Michael to the Hague to face charges for war crimes.

    Nuala O’Loan refused to name the senior British politicians that leaned on her not to publish her report on collusion – pressure she resisted – and that was interesting.

    But “groundbreaking”? No.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I agree with you Granni, in as much as I’d like to see the line drawn and we move on. However that’s not realistic as many, both honest and political, want to see the drip, drip of collusion continue for their own means. I reckon we need to lance this boil once and for all. The truth will out!

  • Reader

    Jag: The fact the killings and all that ,furthered the British military objectives?
    Except that they didn’t.
    Murders by loyalists (as they seem to be your main concern) didn’t further British military objectives. That’s even insofar as the British had *military* objectives. The British Government had *political* objectives, and murders by loyalists were constantly doing damage to those.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    “they find the lack of critical and moral restraint useful in the
    campaign to exterminate the culture of their opponents. By destroying
    authentic culture – that which allows us to question and examine
    ourselves and our society – the state erodes the moral fabric.”
    This is a very valid point because it goes beyond the statement ‘the 1st casualty of war is truth’. It leads us to the inevitable question of what was the British state’s ultimate aim? The general narrative of war is that there will be an outright victor and there will then be the vanquished or even the annihilated. The victor is then the editor of the history and seizes the moral victory due to the military one. In short the victor can have his cake and eat it. That’s what military personnel understand (along with the PIRA) and we know that the top brass were making a lot of decisions in how this ‘war’ was enacted. Weir’s statement about creating a civil war where every one of us would have had to take sides exposes this clearly. Luckily most of us weren’t foolish enough to allow ourselves to descend into this anarchy because we understood that that won’t easily erupt in a democracy particularly when civilisation is at stake. Nonetheless, Hedges’ ‘authentic culture’ is still absent among many of our tribal adherents. Lesson 1 for military decision makers: only pursue your scorched earth policy when you’re Genghis Khan. Many of us wanted to hold on to our fitted kitchens as well as a sense of a shared moral framework.

  • Jag

    The killing of Pat Finucane was a blow to the IRA, because he was a brilliant solicitor who skilfully represented people charged with Republican activity. His killing meant IRA members were more likely to remain out of jail. His killing therefore furthered the British military objectives.

    Terrorising the enemy and their community is an established tactic to force resettlement. That’s what the IRA did in Britain, that’s what the British government did in Ireland.

    Decapitating movers and shakers, politicians, businessmen in your enemy’s community degrades your enemy. ISIS does it in 2015, loyalists, with the connivance and logistical backing of the British government, did it in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

    Collusion had a military objective and it was to an extent achieved by the British government. It assisted the killing of the IRA, nationalist politicians and other movers and shakers in tne nationalist community. The British government also assisted the terrorising of the nationalist community in Ireland, So, the miltary objective of collusion was, to an extent, achieved.

  • John Collins

    Well the highly respected Ken McGinnis said he gave three names of suspected terrorist killers to Mrs Thatcher and he clams they were eliminated by the SAS a few days later. So indeed Nationalists are spot on the money when they claim these orders were give from the very highest level

  • Deke Thornton

    Frank Kitson and Gordon Kerr were the unsung heroes of the conflict ending here. They deserve the Nobel peace prize far more than Hume and Trimble.

  • Reader

    Jag: The killing of Pat Finucane was a blow to the IRA, because he was a brilliant solicitor who skilfully represented people charged with Republican activity. His killing meant IRA members were more likely to remain out of jail. His killing therefore furthered the British military objectives.
    You’re too squeamish for the real Pat Finucane debate. Like most solicitors, he was bright, but his arguments were the same as vanilla solicitors – that supergrass evidence alone could not make a case. And the ordinary solicitors had success on that basis too.
    Of course, the loyalists saw him as that Hollywood Cliché – a lawyer for the mob. Do you think they were right? And that the British thought so too? Even so, there were a hundred better targets, fingered by Stakeknife, but seemingly invisible to the loyalists.

  • james

    If it was a war, that would be fair enough then. Do you think it was a war?

  • John Collins

    What I wish to confirm is that the orders for these killings came from the very highest level. The Ira in all their forms were murderous thugs but when their opponents stopped to their level they prolonged the conflict and in ways proved by their conduct they were no better than their reviled opponents.

  • james

    Well, I think it remains to be seen whether any such orders came from the ‘highest level’. I will infer from your response that you would not class it as a war then.

  • tmitch57

    I think that the fact that he came from an IRA family and had brothers in the IRA clinched in for the loyalists. This probably more than his legal skills or win/loss record got him murdered.

  • tmitch57

    I found most of the documentary to be a repeat of Anne Cadwallader’s “Lethal Allies.” Cadwallader had more interesting evidence of collusion in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings that the documentary didn’t present–the testimony of a former British army or RUC bomb handler who examined the remnants of the bomb and found them similar to IRA bombs.

  • LordSummerisle

    As Ma said in a Give My Head Peace episode, “So you mean it was the Brits fighting the Brits with the Brits in the middle. Well what the hell has it got to do with us”

  • james

    Sean O’Callaghan seems to have suggested that the man himself was IRA, unless I’ve read him wrong. Another truth I suppose we will never fully know.

  • james

    I’d say, if anything, they stole skiffle.

  • tmitch57

    I read O’Callaghan’s memoirs years ago and can’t remember what he wrote about Finucane. We’ll never know for sure. Loyalists don’t have a great record when it comes to separating IRA/SF Republicans from ordinary nationalists and the Republicans don’t have a great record about dealing truthfully with the background of their leadership.