On Brexit, facts and claims that are checked by the media expose chancers and charlatans to highlight lies, smears and misrepresentation.
This healthy scepticism is spectacularly missing in the legacy of the North of Ireland’s past.
He is Adjunct Fellow at the Edward M Kennedy Institute for conflict prevention, Maynooth University, Ireland
For the 50th anniversary of the start of the Troubles 12 hours by the national broadcaster. Although the top security experts were chief constables like Sir Ken Newman and Sir John Hermon, their strategic view was not transmitted.
What aired excluded the security element of a government strategy led by police and steered by police intelligence for nearly all of the Troubles.
Predictably, therefore, the cop most heard, John Stevens, was not of the Newman/Hermon mindset. To read his book, clearly, he believes the Bogside could have been policed like Basingstoke.
Not having charged intelligence personnel for the 1989 loyalist murder of Patrick Finucane, Cambridgeshire’s senior bobby used a vague collusion term. In 2003 he gave the Public Prosecution Service some half a billion words. The reply, four years later, stated the obvious, instructing collusion is not crime. Of real crime the huge file lacked evidence to prosecute intelligence personnel.
A gripping read in parts, no doubt. But so is Alice in Wonderland.
Healthy media scepticism should have asked: Why did a criminal investigation of enormous length and public cost invent non-crime?
No such question came because collusion as a story can run and run and run.
It ticks so many boxes.
• Human interest: corruption, secrecy and conspiracy theory.
• Politics: Provo republicanism’s hatred of ‘Brits,’ factional unionism, hard left, bleeding heart liberals, Dublin co-ethnic bias and London disinterest.
• Economics: law firms and so-called human rights groups.
• Academia: utopian theories of security and justice.
All donate to and benefit from the biggest tick box — blame. Or rather, demonising the security forces and security effort, especially intelligence.
Politics created a due diligence-free zone where narrative reigns.
These collusion findings, that the public believe, are based on evidence that has not stood up to scrutiny in a criminal court. This approach to reports that ruin reputations but do not meet the criminal burden of proof continued with the Police Ombudsman’s office, until collusion was recently described as “opinion” in an ongoing legal action.
Any such contrary finding is often ignored, by the media, who invite people on to give their own opinion, as the comeback cameo on screen by Stevens, now a lord, shows.
Bolstering the ranks of opinion formers, more views are sought from former terrorists untouched by remorse.
UDA leader Johnny Adair, PIRA diehard Tommy McKearney and UVF killer Laurence Maguire.
Three times zero is still zero (setting aside the gutter morality of convicted terrorists being given a platform to badmouth security forces, predominantly police, who put them in prison).
To be clear, there was some fine work done by the local Spotlight team where journalism did not meander into innuendo, hearsay or opinion.
For example, Jennifer O’Leary’s excellent exposé of ex-priest and ex-Provo Patrick Ryan was based on his own testimony of his own actions and motivations.
But there were huge problems in parts of the 50th anniversary BBC series. In the opening Peter Taylor documentary, the tragic tale of John Boyle in 1978 was told. An innocent boy shot dead by the SAS at a munitions hide. The implication could have been that the SAS killed many innocent Catholic civilians, took no prisoners and the police paid no heed.
It did not explain that police investigated the Boyle killing, prosecuting two SAS soldiers for murder. Both stood trial and were acquitted.
Over 25 years the special forces killed four innocent civilians (two Catholics and two Protestants).
As to a shoot-to-kill policy, I count seven incidents in the Troubles in which the SAS arrested 15 people (from a terrorist gun team in 1980 to a terrorist sniper team in 1997).
The latter were ideal candidates if there had been shoot to kill. Yet, they ended up in handcuffs, not body bags. Special forces deployed when the risk was highest.
Eight were killed in tackling the world’s deadliest terrorists. The norm, however, was cops confronting terrorist suspects, resulting in a 99% arrest rate.
But to show operational security in this light is to show its rule of law framework, which does not fit the collusion story typified in the televised history of the Troubles.
The collusion narrative is based on selective of partial accounts and opinion, rather than rather than evidence of a prosecutorial standard.
Even Carlsberg would struggle to beat this one-sided in anywhere else with a free press.
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter for the original story
• William Matchett is an ex Special Branch inspector and author of Secret Victory: The Intelligence War that Beat the IRA. He is Adjunct Fellow at the Edward M Kennedy Institute for conflict prevention, Maynooth University, Ireland
Conservative plans to water down the Human Rights Act – to prevent prosecutions of soldiers accused of murders in Northern Ireland – will make the UK a pariah, the party has been warned.
The move could also lead to Britain leaving the European Convention on Human Rights altogether, at huge cost to the country’s reputation, legal experts said.
The backlash came after Boris Johnson pledged to end what the Tories call “unfair trials”, by banning inquests from returning verdicts of unlawful killings for deaths during the Troubles.
It would involve amending the HRA – the key legal route for families seeking to prove British state involvement in killings – to exclude any death in Northern Ireland before it came into force in October 2000.
But Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, now running as an independent, attacked a confusing announcement that he suggested was simply “electioneering”.
“I am very sensitive to soldiers not being harassed about events that happened a long time ago, but the rule of law has to be upheld as well,” he told The Independent.
Amnesty International said: “All victims have the right to an independent investigation – that is a cornerstone of the rule of law throughout the world. “
And Mark Stephens, a solicitor specialising in human rights, said: “This sounds like clickbait for Tory voters.
“The UK has been a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights since 1958 and if we want to remain part of that convention any amendment of domestic legislation will have to be compliant with it.”
The Tory pledge follows a long campaign by veterans’ groups which have protested that the law is being abused to hound retired soldiers years after the events in question took place.
But, under Article 2 of the ECHR, nations are obliged to carry out an effective official investigation into deaths where lethal force had been used against individuals by agents of the state.
Investigations using the inquest system have been used by families to try to prove that their loved ones were killed unlawfully.
Mr Grieve added: “If we seek to stop inquests, we may fall foul of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. And if we seek to interfere with prosecutions, well, I’m staggered that any government would consider it.”
He warned it could lead to leaving the ECHR altogether, adding: “That would be a very bad destination indeed, because we are one of the leading countries seeking to apply it to improve standards, not just in Europe, but around the world.”
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, added: “It is essential that no-one, including members of the Armed Forces, is above the law.
“Yet in preventing former soldiers from being prosecuted over killings and other abuses that took place during the Northern Ireland conflict, that is exactly where this would place them.”
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign affairs minister, also criticised the plan, tweeting: “There is no statute of limitations, no amnesty for anyone who committed crimes in Northern Ireland.
“The law must apply to all, without exception, to achieve reconciliation.”
With many thanks to: The Independent and Rob Merrick Deputy Political Editor for the original story@Rob_merrick
CONSERVATIVE | HUMAN RIGHTS ACT | NORTHERN IRELAND | EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS | BORIS JOHNSON | DOMINIC GRIEVE | AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL | THE TROUBLES | SIMON COVENEY
Cookstown Sinn Féin John McNamee has condemned the weekend erection of Parachute Regiment flags in the town centre “that glorify the Bloody Sunday massacre.”
Councillor John McNamee wants the flags removed “While I’m aware that similar flags have been erected elsewhere those erected in Cookstown have a more sinister message on them,” he said.
“The flags I have seen have the message ‘Londonderry 1972 No Surrender’ emblazoned on them which is an obvious reference to the Bloody Sunday Massacre carried out by the Parachute regiment in Derry on January 30 1972.
“This is a deliberate act to cause further distress to the families of those murdered on that day and a pathetic attempt to glorify what is internationally recognised as a war crime.
“The ‘Paras’ have an unsavoury reputation in the north, this has been demonstrated further with the ongoing inquests which have highlighted their murderous actions in the Ballymurphy massacre.
“Those who erected these flags have committed a blatant hate crime and I am calling for their immediate removal.
I am also calling on the PSNI to investigate those responsible for this hate crime as these flags were erected in full view of the town’s CCTV cameras”.
Councillor McNamee said flags will always be contentious but most organisations erect them and remove them when their relevant cultural events have concluded. “These flags have no cultural significance so they should be removed without delay before they cause any further anguish.
As this is a serious breach of the peace I am calling on the PSNI to work with the relevant agencies namely Mid Ulster Council and the Department for Infrastructure to ensure that these offensive flags are removed immediately,” he said.
With many thanks to the: Tyrone Times for the original story
An SDLP representative has hit out at the flying of Parachute Regiment flags in Belfast describing it as an “insult” to the families of those killed at Bloody Sunday and the Ballymurphy massacre.
The flags were erected in north Belfast at the junction of the Oldpark Road and Ballysillan Road sometime on Saturday. There have also been reports of flags flying in other parts of Northern Ireland.
It is in contravention of the flags protocol put forward by the Loyalist Communities Council which stated flags should be flown in a “respectful” manner and not in a way to be used for provocative purposes and only between June and September.
Sources in the area told the Belfast Telegraph they were put up to show “solidarity” with soldier F, who faces prosecution over the killings of two people on Bloody Sunday and the attempted murder of four others.
Carl Whyte, who is the SDLP’s member of the independent Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition said whoever put the flags up showed “complete ignorance of the history of the Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland”.
He said residents in the area had been in contact to voice their concerns.
“These flags should be taken down immediately before they cause any further distress,” he said.
“I am calling on community leaders in the area to exercise their influence. I have also written to the Department of Infrastructure requesting their immediate removal.”
Thirteen people were killed and 15 wounded after members of the Army’s Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in Derry’s Bogside on January 30, 1972. A 14th person died in hospital.
A number of unionist representatives could not be reached or did not respond to request for comment.
However, a source in the community said the flags had been erected to show “solidarity with Soldier F”.
“People in these communities are angry that republican protagonists have been handed down letters of comfort whilst veterans lie in their beds at night waiting for a rap at the door.”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original posting.
On 31 July 1975 ,five people were killed, including three members of a beloved Irish cabaret band, The Miami Showband, on the A1 road at Buskhill in County Down.
The attack was perpetrated by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group.
The band was travelling home to Dublin late at night after a performance in Banbridge when their minibus was stopped at what appeared to be a military checkpoint.
Guest on BBC show reveals behind the scenes information on ‘how incredibly stupid the show’ is
Gunmen in British Army uniforms ordered them to line up by the roadside. At least four of the gunmen were soldiers from the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), and all were members of the UVF.
Two of the gunmen, both soldiers, died when the time bomb they were hiding on the minibus exploded.
The murders were later described as “the day the music died” because the band members were from both sides of the religious divide. To compound the grief and pain, The Miami Showband were completely apolitical and were extremely popular with fans from both communities.
Here’s what the official synopsis states: “Ambushed by Ulster loyalists, three members of the Miami Showband were killed in Northern Ireland in 1975. Was the crime linked to the government?”
The documentary will examine the search for justice while examining allegations of collusion between the British Army and the killers.
ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre is available to watch on Netflix from 22 March.
ReMastered: O Massacre da Miami Showband | Trailer Oficial Legendado [Brasil] [HD] | Netflix
Clip via Trailers Netflix 1 DAY AGO Netflix’s gripping new documentary on The Troubles is an extremely powerful watch PAUL MOORE
Follow this link to find out more: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_Showband_killings
Former soldier Dennis Hutchings has begun his appeal to the Supreme Court against a decision to try him in a Diplock Court.
Mr Hutchings is due to be tried for attempted murder in connection with a fatal shooting in NI in 1974.
A Diplock Court is a non-jury trial heard by a judge only.
Mr Hutchings, 77, from Cawsand, Cornwall, has denied charges of attempted murder and attempting to cause grievous bodily harm.
John Pat Cunningham, 27, who had learning difficulties, was shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol near Benburb, County Tyrone, in 1974.
Mr Hutchings has made the case it was never his intention to kill or injure Mr Cunningham, but that he was firing warning shots to get him to stop.
Supporters from campaign group Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans clapped and cheered as the ex-soldier arrived at the court in London on Thursday morning.
Mr Hutchings thanked the supporters and said: “Victory for veterans, that’s what we want.”
The former corporal-major in the Life Guards said he was “a bit nervous, obviously, although I don’t think we will get a decision today”.
He said he was “reasonably confident” he would win his case, but added: “I just don’t trust the system anymore.”
What is a Diplock court?
The non-jury system was named after Lord Diplock, a former senior judge and Law Lord.
During the height of the Troubles, he chaired a commission that examined proposed changes in the administration of justice in an attempt to deal with terrorist offences.
The commission published its report in December 1972 and non-jury courts were introduced the following year.
The introduction of Diplock courts was opposed by civil liberty organisations and both nationalists and republicans.
At their peak, more than 300 trials per year were held without a jury.
The government technically abolished the old Diplock courts in 2007.
However, the government gave the director of public prosecutions temporary power to decide that exceptional cases should be tried without a jury if he believed there was still a risk of jurors being intimidated.
In court Mr Hutching’s lawyer argued that in order to be subject to a non-jury trial: “The offence must have occurred due to political or religious hostility (directly or indirectly) and that cannot apply to the security services who were there to uphold law and order and so were not engaging in any such acts (directly or indirectly).”
A lawyer for the NI director of public prosecutions said Mr Hutchings’ contention that the shooting did not relate to “religious or political hostility” effectively “ignores the reality of the situation which prevailed in Northern Ireland in 1974”.
The Supreme Court is expected to reserve its decision.
With many thanks to: BBC News England for the original story