Monday, January 22, 2007
Hot on the heels of the recent independent international panel report into 76 deaths in the 1970s, now we have Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman report into collusion.
Thank you, Nuala O'Loan for your brave and comprehensive report into the biggest scandal of the entire 'Troubles' period.
It is now incontrovertible that the state's police and security services routinely colluded with Loyalist gunmen in order to bring about the murder of Catholic citizens of Northern Ireland.
No doubt the Paisleyites will be suddenly silenced, as they always are when evidence of the wrongdoings committed against the Catholic community of the six counties are highlighted.
But with the DUP's eternal ranting about murderers and terrorism, with the UUP's continuing demands for Nationalists to ally themselves to and offer respect for the organs of state control, surely now is the time for both of those parties to stand up and loudly state that they condemn utterly the activities which saw those state organs take part in the murder of innocent citizens?
Well, Ian? Well, Reg? A single condemnation will do. Though of course, it would be even better if you could convince those members of your electorate who refused to talk to Nuala O'Loan, likely due to their own guilt, to come forward and reveal the full extent of their complicity with Loyalist death squads.
A few arrests wouldn't go amiss either. There are former RUC officers who, we now know from two reports, were involved in plotting the killing of innocent civilians, yet they live in comfortable retirement paid for by the taxpayer out of their extensive pensions.
They could be released after a token sentence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement if necessary.
But if the Unionist parties really want to convince anyone that they really do stand by justice and against terrorism, now is the time for them to step up to the plate and do so, unequivocally.
Bertie Ahern, a man usually known for saying nothing in a thousand words, has been refreshingly clear in his response to this report. I await the response of Tony Blair with interest. But not as much interest as I await Paisley's and Empey's responses.
Update: Tony Blair didn't see fit to comment himself, instead leaving it up to an unnamed mouthpiece to make the following statement:
"This is a deeply disturbing report about events which were totally wrong and which should never have happened. The fact that they did is a matter for profound regret, and the prime minister shares that regret. But this is also a report about the past, and what is important now is that, under the new structures introduced along with the formation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, these events could not happen now."
Hugh Orde and Peter Hain appear to be towing the same line of 'it couldn't happen now.' Surely the point is that it happened THEN? Despite repeated denials from all the same sources now wringing their hands and seeking solace in recent change, these death occurred in the Nineties, some less than a decade ago.
I do very much welcome Hain's statement that he wants to see those involved arrested though:
"There are all sorts of opportunities for prosecutions to follow," said the direct rule Secretary of State. "The fact that some retired police officers obstructed the investigation and refused to cooperate with the police ombudsman is very serious in itself."
Well, feel free to start with the group of former Special Branch officers quoted in The Guardian as saying they had "nothing to be ashamed of', Peter.