The reception for the Loughinisland documentary No Stone Unturned shows that legacy issues will stay marginalised

The low key reception given to the documentary No Stone Unturned, the film documentary on the UVF  murders  of six  randomly selected Catholics in their local Loughinisland  pub in 1994 which is currently being  given a brief screening at the Queen’s Film Theatre, is the latest example of how presumed familiarity with the underlying problems of  Northern Ireland has produced if not quite contempt, at least widespread deadening  indifference.

Warm congratulations nevertheless go to The Detail team especially their reporter Barry McCaffrey who cooperated closely with the filmmaker Alex Gibney to produce a convincing piece which is low on rhetoric and trails no political coat.  But the essential collaborators were the Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire and his team who  in a powerful report last year exposed the extent of collusion,  and an RUC detective who described  vividly how he was  thwarted by the Special Branch from pursuing  inquiries with those who always were and remain the “suspects.”  When the identity of an anonymous written confession obtained by McCaffrey was revealed, it allowed the film’s producers to begin to match names to the anonymised identities of Maguire’s 2016 report which quashed the whitewash that was his predecessor’s account.

The focus of the documentary expands from the Loughinisland findings of protecting one of the killers who was a police informer to the  notorious Glenanne Gang and thence to the widest claims of collusion between the authorities and loyalist paramilitaries.

The linkage to “the top” is plausible but so far unproven. What is discredited is the  “bad apple” theory which blames only  errant police officers for the murder of innocent Catholics – up to 70 the film said, taking place after the Loughinisland killings of 1994.

And there the matter rests, with whatever effect on the peace process. As the BBC’s great investigator John Ware asked in the film: what did the tangled web that was collusion actually gain?  Did it become simply a deadly habit?

No Stone Unturned was described in Slugger here. Today The Detail sets it in its version of the political context.          

Following the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, police reform was one of the pillars of the new era.

The PSNI was created as a result of a major overhaul of the former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Today the police continue to face the deadly threat of violence from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process, but the recent controversies highlight the degree to which the new era in policing has been held back by the past.

A turning point was the British government’s decision to scrap the 50/50 recruitment of Protestants and Catholics, which was aimed to balance a police service that was more than 90% Protestant.

From 2001 to 2011 the policy saw Catholic numbers jump from 8% to 31%. Now the trend is downwards, with a recent pool of recruits including only 19% from the Catholic community.

Another pillar of the peace process could, in theory, have remedied the issues hampering policing.

The Northern Ireland Assembly was created as a platform for the Protestant/unionist community and the Catholic/Irish nationalist community to build a shared future.

But that didn’t happen.

Nationalists in particular came to see the assembly as a bulwark against their rights.

It is clear that the DUP overplayed its hand during the last decade in government at Stormont, culminating in the decision of Sinn Féin to collapse the institutions.

There were many factors at play, but a key element was that the DUP was courted by successive governments at Westminster, making it easier for the unionist party to resist uncomfortable compromises at home in Belfast.

Those pillars of the Good Friday agreement have now been further undermined by Brexit and the prospect of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

How do we reset these big issues?

If we look to government for help, we find the same Conservative Party which scrapped 50/50 police recruitment, which is accused of blocking a deal on the legacy of the Troubles, which relies on the DUP for power, and which is pursuing hard-border policies on Brexit.

When a government watchdog such as Michael Maguire speaks out, who do we expect to respond?

The linkages made in this argument  are too direct.

The “rights” being “blocked” are mainly symbolic identity matters championed aggressively by Sinn Fein as part of a political strategy. While in itself this does not invalidate them, it chooses to ignore the massive fact that institutional discrimination has been outlawed. A justice system  remains largely intact that defends the state, albeit one that has been recast by making concessions to paramilitaries and made locally accountable.

But Sinn Fein’s pressure to go further will be denied. Their apparent aim of achieving overall equivalence between the security forces and the IRA would not be conceded by any state.  The aspirations for “ transitional justice” are being eclipsed  by the political struggle  –  something which its expert advocates would do well to acknowledge.

The obstacles to dealing with the legacy would exist without any deal between the DUP and the Conservatives. With Justice devolved, the local parties cannot bear the weight of the issues. As long as prosecution remains the desired outcome of inquiry,  it is in no one’s interest to confess, from paramilitaries to army and police commanders and politicians.

To cut the knot the British government should go over the heads of the local parties and implement the Haass framework  for conducting  new investigations and holding inquests. They have already set aside £150 million over five years for the purpose. But this will not happen for as long as they keep pretending that the local parties can eventually agree.  The only alternative is to keep pegging away in the courts, case by case,  until everybody concerned is dead.

In truth all sides – successive British governments quoting the alibi of national security, Sinn Fein defending the armed struggle  and the unionist champions of “law and order” and the connivers with loyalist paramilitaries – all of them have too much to hide.

That is why dealing with the past has become a second order political issue.

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  • Christopher Owens

    Excellent read.

    Really, what should happen is that all sides (security forces, republican, loyalist) open their files to the public (like the East German Stasi did at the end of the Cold War). But considering two British Army war diaries which could help resolve the Jean McConville issue are sealed for seventy years, I don’t see it happening any time soon. Which is why the piecemeal efforts over the years have (effectively) led to a hierarchy of victims.

  • 1729torus

    So the current impasse guarantees that the security forces, including the PSNI, will have their reputations slowly and utterly destroyed in the eyes of everyone; but SF lose because they can’t create equivalence between the IRA and the RUC. These two statements are incompatible.

  • mickfealty

    Just a note, in case anyone thinks from Brian’s account that it’s just in the QFT: it’s also showing in 17 other venues in Ireland, as well opening in London and New York, with LA to follow tomorrow.

  • Brian Walker

    A rather gloomy view given the IRA’s well known record!

  • Brian Walker

    The problem wit that is the files won’t be open in detail for as long as they might be used in evidence.

  • Christopher Owens

    True. What would be needed would be some form of legislation that said that people named in such files won’t be charged. However, I don’t think relatives would approve of this (for obvious reasons).

  • mickfealty
  • Gary Thompson

    How exactly would loyalist and Republican groups actually ‘open their files’. Such files as they are only exist in memories of ex combatants who are dying off slowly. Unless of course their are some stuffed cabinets sonewhere on the Shankhill and Falls road full of recorded details. Unlikely.

  • Christopher Owens

    If you’ve read ‘A Secret History of the IRA’ by Ed Moloney, you’ll know that the IRA keep documents of court martials, Army Council meetings and various other items. It’s not a big stretch to imagine loyalists having similar systems.

  • 1729torus

    So SF might have cynically taken advantage of the UK’s tendency to try to cover up things that would embarrass its security forces to embarrass them further?

  • Croiteir

    And people cant understand why the PSNI is not an acceptable police force?

  • I think you should give more credit to the youth of tomorrow. One side opens up, the other remains tight lipped. The history books won’t miss that.

    Let’s not knock honesty.

  • Gary Thompson

    The IRA simply do not exist anymore as a structured form, despite the wishful thinking of the anti republican brigade. It is ludicrous to believe such documents if they ever existed in the first place, are tucked safetly away patiently awaiting a dramatic revelation.

  • Spike

    The unpalatable truth is both sides have elements of despicable behaviour carried out by rogue elements and unbecoming of whatever deemed appropriate ideology they originally started out from. I say that republicans, loyalists, nationalist / Unionist sympathizers and the state forces – we have all ignored or justified something whether we were immature or mature at the time.

    1998 was supposed to be the ‘line in the sand’ where we moved on, swallowed the terrible events perpetrated in all our names and tried to piece this society together for the greater good.

    Is it possible for us to move on if we keep going back to pre-1998 days? Bloody Sunday, Kingsmill, Ballymurphy, Enniskillen, Loughinisland, Shankill etc etc all barbaric and heinous but how do we realistically move on? The families involved are still living with the pain of these events in their daily lives but just how do we move on without disrespecting them?

    We can all pontificate and explain how and why ‘our side’ affected by the other side, but we are sitting here in 2017 and appear to be endlessly referring back to the past.
    Politicians from both sides refer back to past events as if they were yesterday to justify arguments but surely this is simply perpetuating grievances. Truth commissions are testy affairs, Amnestys proved to be a sore point with OTR letters? We cant ban politicians from whataboutery.

    Just how do we get to a point where we can maturely swallow the pain, view past events from reflection rather than litigation and move forward? Maybe it isn’t possible but maybe some esteemed poster on this forum has a strategy?

  • Christopher Owens

    Considering multiple journalists have referred to them over the years, there is no question over whether they existed or not. Take this, for example.

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?redir_esc=y&id=rR4fDAAAQBAJ&q=fenton+appendix#v=snippet&q=fenton%20appendix&f=false

  • Gary Thompson

    The question is if they exist now.

  • Christopher Owens

    Since you wrote “…if they ever existed in the first place”, it was a reasonable response.

    Are they? I would say yes. You never know when they can come in handy to embarrass certain people.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Hmm … Ben Lowry’s article on this after the Maguire Report came out last year is worth revisiting – in particular around the misleading use of the word “collusion”: http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/opinion/ben-lowry-the-growing-myth-of-loyalist-collusion-1-7426452.
    The key parts are worth reproducing here for ease of reference:

    “The Royal Ulster Constabulary were in cahoots with some of the most despicable paramilitary murderers. Or were they? That is what anyone with an ordinary understanding of the English language could deduce from that conclusion. Here it is again: “… collusion between RUC and those responsible for the murders.”
    … An ordinary person, without a knowledge of the disputed definition of the term collusion (as used with regard to legacy issues), would assume the RUC planned or assisted the massacre. But this is not what happened … the report did not find any evidence that there was specific intelligence about an intended attack on the bar.
    So not only were the RUC not involved in the massacre, they did not even know it was going to happen.
    Dr Maguire adopts Judge Smithwick’s definition: “ … the issue of collusion will be examined in the broadest sense of the word …”
    If that definition is used then there must be a large range in how serious an act of collusion is. Here is my suggested collusion hierarchy:
    • Most serious – security forces plan or carry out or instigate murder
    • Next most serious – security forces know about an impending murder by another group and do not stop it
    • Next most serious – security forces learn after the event who carried out a murder and do not act
    • Next most serious – security forces do not know murder culprit but make no meaningful effort to find out.
    The Loughinisland report seems to place some police in the third or fourth category.

    Even a higher notch of collusion – an officer not making a serious effort to find a murderer –while deserving of dismissal, censure and investigation is not what people deduce from the phrase “collusion between police and murderers”.
    How people interpret things is relevant. Republicans want us to believe that the state engaged in wholesale murder, so we must be careful about language that legitimises that narrative …”

    There is a massive cognitive dissonance going on here. Because make no mistake, our intelligence services are running informers inside terror gangs *right now*, at least let’s all hope they are. Under what circumstances should they pull the informer out? Informers are kept in place inside the gangs, knowing they will continue to be committing crimes at some level, because to not be involved in anything the gang is doing is untenable. If we pull them out when the gang launches an attack, we lose our ability to anticipate and stop future attacks. That is the dilemma. It is a genuine one for those involved in anti-terror policing, this is not some peripheral consideration, or an excuse for the inexcusable. Some of the definitions of “collusion” applied by some PONIs effectively make intelligence-led anti-terror policing practically impossible. This is really serious, for all of us, and we need to sit up and think about this a bit more thoroughly.

    The IRA for example, when they got suspicious about one of their members, used to concoct an operation (sometimes without live ordnance) in which that person had to pull a trigger or press a button on a bomb. If they didn’t, they were hauled off to one of those barns in South Armagh for several hours of torture and then death. So this is the environment police and intelligence service are operating in here with informers. I marvel at how anti-terror intelligence work deep into the Troubles decades is still apparently judged without taking account of the longitudinal project they were engaged in. Police and intelligence service were tasked, on all our behalfs, with undermining and stopping *over the medium to long term* large-scale paramilitary organisations, who were launching multiple paramilitary murder attacks on a weekly and even daily basis. Da Silva gave that cognisance in his report and recognised its overall value; not all reports have.

    Clearly, where handlers have advance warning of an attack and let it go ahead without warning the potential victim, that is abuse and a case of possible “collusion”. But like Ben Lowry, I think “collusion” is a really misleading word to use for those cases where a decision was made afterwards, without poice foreknowledge of a particular attack, to leave a terrorist in place in their gang because a judgment was made more lives can be saved that way.

    Whether they got it right or not with the handling of the informer involved in Loughinisland, I don’t know. If you’re one of the families, you’re going to be outraged that there was no criminal justice in your case. Less obvious are the people who didn’t die and weren’t bereaved because an informer was in place and an attack averted. Martin McGartland’s phrase of “Fifty Dead Men Walking” is one of the few examples of this consideration entering the culture. We need to remember that side of the terror policing equation too.

    For the different definitions of collusion, between different PONIs and different judges, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20682687

  • Some people, particularly opinionated politicians, don’t want to move on. We should have a Troubles day in Northern Ireland, were we all share a minute of silence whilst considering what tits we all must have been back then – but we don’t have that. Personally, I don’t believe the hurt is really going to be solved by investigating the past so as to find a very long list of culprits.

  • Oggins

    MU, think you are missing Brian’s point.

    The reception for the Loughinisland documentary No Stone Unturned shows that legacy issues will stay marginalised

    I believe he is using Loughlinisland as a discussion point on legacy issues and not as a challenge to the security forces

  • Granni Trixie

    I can see why you say this (your last sentence) but if in principle we listen to victims/survivors and have a victims lead process, it is clear that many Of them believe otherwise.

  • Brian Walker

    mainland,
    The documentary does not leave the impression that the RUC ” planned or assisted in the massacre.” The film and the Ombudsman’s report makes clear that the sections of the police allowed it to happen after thinking that it had been cancelled due to faults in the killers’ car, then covered up the killer role of an informer and successfuly impeded the investigation. If the investigation has led to convictions, lives might have saved lives in the future. contrary to the normal defence that killer informers saved more lives than they destroyed. The conclusion from the Ombudsman’s report is that in this case, the sins of omission that the police admitted were to glaring that they amounted of commission.
    Oggins to this extent I do ” challenge the security forces” although I take comfort that it was an independent state body that made the real challenge.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    fair enough in this case Brian, I’m not suggesting no mistakes were made. Was the covering up of the role of the informer and impeding of the investigation done as part of the longer term strategy against the UVF though? I’m not saying that makes it right, just that it does put something of a different slant on the security forces’ motives if so. It’s an approach we might disagree with on balance but if the intention and motivation was to reduce terrorism overall and they honestly and reasonably believed lives could be saved that way, I would be less harsh in my judgment of that decision. On the other hand, if it was a case of messing up the investigation just cos, then that’s a completely different matter and they should have the book thrown at them.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    There were a few points in there, Oggins, as Brian confirms.

    I actually think No Stone Unturned has had quite a lot of publicity and it was a coup to get such a high profile and reputable documentary maker involved making it. My concerns over the way agent-running overall is portrayed in the media remain though.

    I haven’t seen this particular film yet but have read a lot about it and none of it has given much indication the intelligence arguments for keeping agents in place are given a lot of prominence. It is a debate we need to have, not just about the past but about future inflitration of terrorist groups – as these moral dilemmas of when to keep ‘assets’ in place or pull them continue to arise for the guys in the front line of it. It is not easy.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU its a very simple issue really. Claiming that you are protecting the public by letting informers kill
    Members of the public is simply unacceptable. Taking about “motivation …. to reduce terrorism over all” is an evasive formulation which tip toes around the plain fact that people assisting the state were getting away with killing members of the public. This moral torpitude has been a characteristic of the northern statelet since at least 1920.

  • Aodh Morrison

    If the Ombudsman has found that the “sins of omission that the police admitted were to glaring that they amounted of commission.” (sic) Did PONI move to presenting a file for prosecution? If not why not?

    I understand that you once worked for the BBC? If so I’d bet that a trawl through the BBC’s personnel department and achives would unearth all the programmes you worked on, including the emails you sent, the papers you signed off on etc.

    The police, like the BBC, has the instincts and methodology of a civil service bureaucracy. Decisions made by police officers, the reports they made, the orders they gave are all recorded and filed.

    PONI has had access to those files, sometimes it has to be said following a court order. Why are alleged police ‘criminals’ not before a court? Could it be the evidence thing?

    Are you comfortable with an official investigatory body like PONI making comment about ‘collusion’ in a publicly available report yet unable to put any name to who was doing the ‘colluding’?

  • WindowLean

    “It’s not a big stretch to imagine loyalists having similar systems.”

    It probably is.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “letting informers kill members of the public” though – there is no suggestion that this happened in this case, as the police did not know about the attack beforehand. The charge is that justice was not pursued in this case because an intelligence asset in the wider operation against terrorism would have been lost. As I say, a genuine moral dilemma and people can take different views based on how far you want intelligence work against terrorists to go.

    By the time of Loughinisland, an awful lot of people had been killed (over 3000 already by then) by established terrorist groups, but those groups were feeling the squeeze from informer infiltration. Special Branch and MI5 were having success this way and Da Silva for one accepted the security forces had reduced the capacity of Loyalist paramilitaries in the 80s through this kind of approach. With respect I think you’re ducking the big questions on how best to thwart the terrorists. The state was at least trying to do so, not always perfectly and there were a lot of mistakes and grey areas. But as a citizen and potential terror target as we all are, I’d rather they were trying something.

  • I say it mainly because I believe that we cannot investigate the past so thoroughly as to point the finger of blame at everyone who deserves to have the finger pointed at them. We might be able to find some culprits, but we will not find others. Those who we do find, we won’t even agree that they are really bad guys. It’s an approach that could only completely succeed in an ideal world.

  • Oggins

    Sorry Brian, you do challenge the security forces, I was more focusing on that the crux is a legacy issue.

    I just don’t want the debate, as it can, go down a different avenue or point.

    Or have I taken it wrong?!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d read Brian’s response to your first posting as “ letting informers kill members of the public.” The RUC “allowed it to happen” and covered up the killer role of an informer and successfully impeded an investigation.”

    “Diminished responsibility” pleas on the “ motivation…to reduce terrorism over all” avoids the plain reality that this is either letting informers kill members of the public or ensuring that when they do there are no consequences. No talk about the greater good, and the reduction of figures can remove the direct culpability of the state, through its agents, for the murder of its own people. If I put myself up for this risk then I am knowingly commuting myself to save lives, but putting unsuspecting members of the public in their graves to provide cover for agents is utterly unacceptable morally. I recognise why you are thinking as you do, but each death is not simply a statistic, but the ending of a human life, and as I have clearly said the moral torpitude of “killing the public to protect them” simply cannot be argued away with numbers.

  • Granni Trixie

    But in the case of Loughinisland, the usual problems are compounded by an alleged lack of attention to investigating from the very beginning suggesting it was never going to happen. Apart from the documentary film, I have also listened to families powerful accounts where they spell out that they trusted the police to do their job and are therefore disillusioned. The demands for proper investigstions coming from people who did not want to find the police at fault is compelling.

    And this kind of testimoney is hard to listen to for those of us who support the PSNI, recognising the courage it takes to join such a profession. This does not give a blank cheque infact having observed the present Chief Constable I doubt he wants a blank cheque. Nowadays He and the PSNI are probably the most scrutinised police in the U.K and beyond. In addressing faults of past policing we ought not lose sight of that.

  • Gary Thompson

    A very clever and long winded way of saying that the security services were perfectly justified in going out and brutaly murdering perfectly innocent people.

  • Brian Walker

    Well, many people connected with the justice system favour a law of limitations conditional on disclosure from admissions and the records. It is some distance away.

  • Brian Walker

    I am comfortable with that Aodh and the police and DPP have yet to make decisions. Like you and a multitude I’m keen to hear results. The film showed it was quite easy to assign names to the Ombudsman’s report and indeed filmed the suspects who run a pest control business only a few miles from the crime scene.

  • Brian Walker

    As John Ware said in the film, the overall benefit of the informer policy is far from clear. It would help if we had an objective account of how it was run and what it achieved.. But I suspect that would carry the threat of prosecutions which the state will not contemplate if it can possibly help it.Nor is there any real incentive to break the wall of official silence, any more than paramilitaries’ omerta.

  • Brian Walker

    Mainland.. but the Ombudsman found that the police expected a local attack. That is a crucial part of the case.

  • NotNowJohnny

    What term would you use to describe the act of letting paramilitary murderers go free thereby knowing that they are likely to murder again and leaving them free to do so?

  • Jeremy Cooke

    If a hypothetical asset told a hypothetical handler that last night they, the asset, had been ordered to steal a car by Joe Blow and leave in in a lay-by where it was subsequently collected and used in a murder before being found burnt out. And if that hypothetical asset will not give evidence in court, or is unlikely to be believed, and cannot place anybody actually in the car does the handler:

    a) arrest the asset anyway and lose any future help in targeting Joe Blow?
    b) arrest Joe Blow and tell him you know the asset stole the car for him?
    c) arrest Joe Blow and water board him until he confesses?
    d) tell the family that you’ll do your best even if you know that you have little chance?
    e) pass on the intelligence that Joe Blow was involved?
    f) tell the asset to get closer to Joe Blow and next time try to divert the car so that a tracker can be fitted?

    I’d suggest that anything other than a) to c) is being called “collusion”.

    I’d further suggest that anything other than d) to f) is irresponsible and likely to lead to further lose of life.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Remind me why the psni is not an acceptable police force. I’m not saying that it is or isn’t. I just want to see the reasons clearly written down. And what changes would you like to see made to it to make it acceptable?

  • NotNowJohnny

    The problem with this proposal is that too many people are still being ‘t*ts’ now.

  • NotNowJohnny

    We will never get to this point. There is just too much bigotry, bitterness and sectarianism. Too many people want to continue to focus on the past. Some people want revenge. Others need to justify their murderous acts. Others want to be seen as the great champion of the victim and the honourable seeker of justice. Meanwhile the victims are just pawns in this awful game. The so called search for justice and the quest to deal with the past is merely a means of continuing the conflict.

  • Korhomme

    Were you, as a patient, to come to me and seek advice for a chronic malaise, a general feeling of being sub-par, listlessness, lack of energy, and an indefinable but very definite and persistent feeling that there was something seriously wrong, I would investigate you thoroughly. Were I to find that you had a major internal corruption which had progressed to a large and festering abscess, I would advise that you would never be better without an operation. The operation would be a very major procedure to lance and drain the fester, and to ensure that all sources of internal corruption and disease were located and eradicated. I would advise that you would be seriously unwell after such a procedure, perhaps to the extent of needing a stay in intensive care, but that you would slowly recover and return to full health, vitality and the enjoyment of life.

    Would you undergo the operation?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the asset is very unlikely to and the rest of his unit are rendered much less able to do so

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I said nothing of the sort, Gary

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Da Silva conducted a mini-review of the effectiveness in the late 80s of agent-running, reported in Ch5 of his report. Not comprehensive over the whole Troubles and it’s not provable of course but he accepted overall lives had been saved.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that sounds very vague info though – is that enough to act on, operationally?

  • Christopher Owens
  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m looking for a descriptive term here.

  • Zig70

    Whatever your take on how involved the RUC were, the back turning by so-called liberal unionists and media is pretty galling. We know where we stand.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Brian for a describing just how unclear the actual value of the policy is in retrospect.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    But that is Sir Desmond’s opinion MU, not arguable as solid fact. By definition it must always be an evaluation of what remains a limited perception as we are only looking at those aspects of what went on that may be made public.

    While Sir Desmond claims he was “given access to all the evidence I sought including highly sensitive intellegence files”, it is clear that, given the extent of the duplicity which was revealed, how can anyone even begin to imagined me that he was given complete and unrestricted access to every pertinent scrap of information. Any genuine full and objective assessment of the states clandestine activity in the troubles is an impossibility given the controversial nature of what might be revealed.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    He had access to more evidence than either of us

  • SeaanUiNeill

    That invocation of “ more” does not actually affirm your own point. While I would fully agree that he had access to more material, I’d suggest that it is still a logical fallacy to claim that his conclusions were definitive on lives being saved. We simply do not know what qualifying information was not made available to him or, an old habit of security agencies, had been destroyed. And, what Brian asked for was an objective account, which would have at the very least required the assessment of a full inquiry. What Sir Desmond Gould was shocking and damaging in showing the cavalier behaviour of the security services, but it has always suggested to any objective reader that even more culpable things may have been retained.

    I have had to do with people involved with Michael Mansfield’s work on abuse and the limitations of even an enquiry have been made most clear to me in what I am hearing. I remember being critical on what you are talking about myself when I read it, but would need to reread to answer you properly on this. I’m allergic to broad generalisations, as you will be well aware by now.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    If they were privy to information from an agent, surely the answer is yes!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Granni, the “football team” “ my side right of wrong” approach to support for the PSNI simply does not take into account the motivations of people like ourselves who support a police force which should ensure rule of law and even handedness for the whole comminity.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Here is your key bit from De Silva on the saving of lives through intelligence-led penetration of loyalist paramilitaries. Apologies to him and others for repeatedly referring to him as “da” Silva, I can only put it down to over-zealous lusophilia … https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5812ad4ce4fa35446f297db9dda089bfe74a13f1cd2d1899c0d5407a7ebc3ab6.png

    Then the part where he opines the police and intelligence services were not somehow operating in favour of Loyalist terrorists: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8071cdfafb4dc8f52b27b547f3b9e246143b1113b0076164b00269ff80a08380.png

  • T.E.Lawrence
  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t accept the premise that keeping an asset in place increases the number of paramilitary murders overall. Do you have evidence for that?

    What it is is an iteration of the “Trolley Problem” well known to moral philosophy debates about the limits of utilitarianism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOpf6KcWYyw

    In my view we need a more informed moral philosophical debate as a society about the rules by which the intelligence services should operate when conducting long-term inflitration operations against terrorist organisations.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    so they think there is going to be an attack somewhere in the locality at some time … what do they actually do? How does that information get them any further?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “the direct culpability of the state, through its agents, for the murder of its own people …”
    “putting unsuspecting members of the public in their graves to provide cover for agents”
    “the moral torpitude of “killing the public to protect them” …”
    I would agree on all those points, had that happened. But that’s certainly not what the report says happened in Loughinisland though – see my earlier post, quoting Ben Lowry’s piece.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it’s very long …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think we all want that

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You and I might, but if “we”’all wanted that then we’d not be encountering the attempts to shield culpabilities in the old RUC by the evasions and outright lies about historical instances of collusion which Sir John Stevens and Sir Bernard de Silva have so clearly outlined in their reports.

    The film instances a trust by members of the public in the integrity of the RUC to expose what had occurred through a clean and reasonably honest investigation. It appears from some of the other postings here that there are others who feel that the moral issues inherent in that collusion evident in their failure to carry this out is an unimportant thing.

    True wisdom in such matters involves the realisation that we are never going to get a better past but every honest attempt to face up to what has really gone on and to recognise and mark culpability may permit us to build a much better future.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You’re going to have to point me to where I claimed that keeping an asset in place increase the number of paramilitary murders overall.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    where you said:
    “What term would you use to describe the act of letting paramilitary murderers go free knowing that they are likely to murder again and leaving them free to do so?”

    Are you accepting now that keeping an asset in place may be a genuine attempt to prevent murders and may actually have that effect?

  • NotNowJohnny

    I made no comment as regards that issue. You’re trying to put words in my mouth. It’s not going to happen. I’m still waiting for the descriptive term.