Archive for January 23rd, 2007

Blame The Terrorists

On collusion, Beatrix Campbell with a great piece on the Guardian website:

Flanagan wasn’t alone. He was part of an entire system. Who were the civil servants who staffed that security system in Northern Ireland during the Mount Vernon terror? Where are they now? What else were they doing to thwart justice while the state was investing in the Mount Vernon boys? What did these civil servants think they were doing? What did they tell the politicians sequestered in Hillsborough Castle? And the biggest question: what was the overarching agenda?

I think the overarching agenda was to terrorise Catholics and force the IRA to abandon their armed campaign. Or maybe -as some would invite us to believe- it was a case of unaccountable power-drunk rotten apples in a barrel meeting down at the graveyard at midnight.

The more dead Catholics there were, the less the IRA could shore up support for continuing their campaign, particularly as the paradigm in which many people understood the conflict at the time was one of a general ‘cycle of violence’ and ‘tit-for-tat’ killings, wrought by tribal tensions and ancient hatreds etc etc.

Regardless of what the IRA actually thought, whenever they killed an RUC officer it was perceived by many Catholics -whether they supported it or not- as contributing to the ‘cycle of violence’, with the attendant repercussions for Catholics in terms of loyalist paramiltary reprisal. Support for the IRA under such circumstances was bound to diminish, and it is difficult in retrospect to see how the IRA could have continued indefinitely when faced with such a vicious loyalist response. Was such a scenario really all that unpalatable to those responsible for ensuring state security?

In ‘Going to the Edge‘, Brian Rowan wrote about former RUC Chief Constable Hugh Annesley’s explanation for the IRA ceasefire decision.

Sir Hugh said there were other contributing factors such as ‘declining funds’ and a concern about condemning another generation to violence. He also believes that those escalating loyalist attacks throughout the 1990s, when the UVF and the UFF first matched and then exceeded the IRA’s killing rate, also had a bearing on the IRA coming to its decision. He said within some nationalist areas of Belfast people were ‘progressively growing concerned’ that they were at risk, that they had had enough and that there had to be a better way.

It seems pretty clear, to me at least, that the ‘escalating loyalist attacks’ were in fact facilitated by the British state as part of a dirty war.

It is convenient to blame the institution of the RUC, now disbanded, for such obvious instances of state terrorism, since the RUC can be used as a counterpoint to the gleaming new police force to be supported by Sinn Fein.

Like the rum cove whose craven deeds have been exposed in an Agatha Christie novel, the RUC is now supposed to represent an aberration in a system that would have otherwise functioned quite spiffingly, and we can be thankful to the Ombudsman for her Poirot-like endeavours. That, it seems, is the perspective of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Chief Constable of the PSNI, among others. Yet, perhaps unlike an Agatha Christie novel, there will be no prosecutions (Brian Rowan again):

Criminal trials could have seen former Secretaries of State subpoenaed as witnesses and quizzed over Mark Haddock’s activities. One former senior Special Branch officer told Sunday Life: “Don’t forget: ultimately, we implemented security policy in Northern Ireland that was determined by (the Government).

“Senior Special Branch officers attended weekly meetings of the joint policy group at Stormont that were chaired by the Secretary of State – not by us.

“Ultimately, security policy was decided in London and it was the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to ensure that the policy was correctly and effectively carried out and there are minutes of those meetings.”

Blaming the RUC also serves to distract from the possibility that there may be government ministers and civil servants, who, in properly functioning democracies, would be eating prison food for their role in a sordid episode of this magnitude.

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