Highly sensitive intelligence is set to be examined at a so-called secret court hearing into alleged state collusion in a loyalist massacre at a Belfast bookmakers.
Eight lawsuits have been brought against the Chief Constable, Ministry of Defence and British Government on behalf of those killed and injured at the Sean Graham shop in February 1992.
A High Court judge on Friday vowed to press ahead with a closed material procedure (CMP) in a bid to ensure no further delays in the actions.
That will involve intelligence documents being assessed in private, with a special advocate barrister appointed to protect the rights of plaintiffs shut out from the hearing.
Confirming a date for the CMP will be fixed next week, Mr Justice Maguire insisted: “I’m absolutely not going to tolerate any slippage.”
Five Catholics were shot dead when the Ulster Freedom Fighters opened fire inside the bookies on the lower Ormeau Road.
Several other customers were wounded in the mass shooting.
Victims and their relatives are seeking damages for alleged negligence and misfeasance in public office.
The actions involve claims that a rifle used in the atrocity was smuggled in from South Africa by a state agent.
According to the plaintiffs’ case, the authorities should have known the weapon was part of a shipment overseen by Brian Nelson, a loyalist paramilitary who worked for British intelligence.
Litigation is being taken amid further hold-up in the completion of a Police Ombudsman investigation into the Sean Graham attack.
The watchdog has been unable to publish a long-awaited report due to the emergence of new material.
Earlier this year the Police Service of Northern Ireland apologised after finding relevant information on a computer system which had been overlooked.
In court on Friday, counsel for one of the victims said it was “even more alarming” when it emerged for a second time last month that the PSNI had discovered more documents.
“It was described as significant, sensitive information which has not been made available previously to the Ombudsman,” he added.
However, Mr Justice Maguire made it clear that he was not prepared to wait until the report is finally published.
“We are going to get on with it, I’m absolutely fed up with delay after delay in these cases,” he said.
Outside court a solicitor representing the families explained their reasons for taking legal action.
Niall Murphy of KRW Law said: “These cases involve concerns of collusion in the commission of this atrocity, the protection of state agents from prosecution in the aftermath, and perhaps most egregiously, the role of the state in arming the UFF.
“The Chief Constable has applied for the protection of a secret court by means of a Closed Material Procedure to deal with his disclosure responsibilities regarding sensitive intelligence.”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Alan Erwin for the original story
MI5 has been illegally allowing its informants to commit serious crimes, potentially including murder, kidnap and torture, for decades, a tribunal has heard.
Four human rights organisations are taking legal action against the UK Government over a policy they claim ‘purports to permit MI5 agents to participate in crime’ and effectively ‘immunises criminal conduct from prosecution’.
The groups argue the effect of the policy, which they say ‘has been in place since at least the 1990s’ and was ‘kept secret for decades’, is ‘for the executive to grant itself the power, in secret, to dispense with the criminal law enacted by Parliament’.
Privacy International, Reprieve, the Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre are asking the Investigatory Powers Tribunal to declare the policy unlawful and grant an injunction ‘restraining further unlawful conduct’.
At the start of a four-day hearing in London yesterday, Ben Jaffey QC said ‘the Security Service (MI5) are permitted under the policy to ‘authorise’ criminal conduct for a variety of purposes including any national security purpose, or maintaining the economic well-being of the United Kingdom’.
He added that ‘the agents in question are not officers of the Security Service, but they are ‘recruited and given directions by MI5’.
However, he said those MI5 officers could become criminally liable as an accessory.
Mr Jaffey said the issues raised by the case are ‘not hypothetical’, submitting that ‘in the past, authorisation of agent participation in criminality appears to have led to grave breaches of fundamental rights’.
He pointed to the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, an attack later found to have involved collusion with the state, and the case of Freddie Scappaticci, ‘who is alleged to have been a senior member of the IRA and a security service agent working under the codename ‘Stakeknife”.
Mr Jaffey told the tribunal that the Government had ‘refused’ to confirm that such serious criminal offences ‘could never be lawfully sanctioned under their
Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Government, said in written submissions that it would be ‘impossible’ for MI5 to operate without covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) ‘also known as agents’.
‘They are indispensable to the work of the Security Service, and thus to its ability to protect the public from the range of current threats, notably from terrorist attackers,’ Sir James submitted.
He added: ‘Given the covert nature of CHIS, and given the types of person with whom and entities with which they have relationships, they need to behave in certain ways and participate in certain activities.’
Sir James said that ‘this behaviour by CHIS is an inevitable and neccessary part of their ability to function as providers of vital life-saving intelligence, and in order to seek to protect their own lives and safety from the hostile, dangerous actors on whom they are providing intelligence’.
He submitted that MI5 ‘does not, and does not purport to, confer immunity from criminal liability’, adding: ‘A prosecution remains possible.’
Sir James concluded that ‘the underlying conduct – namely the participation in possible criminal activities by agents – was widely known and entirely obvious’, describing it as ‘an unavoidable part of their maintaining their cover and acquiring vital intelligence’.
The tribunal, led by IPT president Lord Justice Singh, is due to hear submissions over four days and is expected to reserve its judgment.
Paddy Armstrong said he wanted the truth for himself and the families of those who died
Falsely-accused Guildford Four member Paddy Armstrong has requested an active role in the resumed pub bombs inquest.
In a submission, he told Surrey Coroner Richard Travers his involvement could help the families of those who died get to the truth of what happened.
His application was opposed by two police forces, the Ministry of Defence and the family of victim Ann Hamilton.
Five people were killed and a further 65 were injured when the IRA blew up two pubs in 1974.
The Guildford Four served 15 years in jail in what became one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice.
In his submission to a pre-inquest review, Mr Armstrong claimed important evidence gathered by police after the bombings had been “nothing but a work of fiction” and “guesswork”, and said he could comment on the credibility of the evidence.
He said he wanted the truth for himself and the families of those who died.
The explosions killed five people and injured 65
Henrietta Hill QC, representing Mr Armstrong, said issues to be explored by the inquest – including the times, locations and who was with the victims – were all part of the criminal trial against her client.
She said Mr Armstrong could offer “significant assistance” to the inquiry.
However Oliver Sanders QC, counsel to the inquest, said the prosecution case against the Guildford Four rested entirely on their confessions and did not explore events that night.
Beatrice Collier, for Surrey Police, said Mr Armstrong seemed to envisage himself as a “quasi-expert witness”, but told Mr Travers: “If he were to take that role it would risk usurping your own.”
James Berry, for the Met, said Mr Armstrong had no knowledge of any of the matters within the inquest scope and no connection to anyone who died, while Edward Pleeth, for the Ministry of Defence, said: “He had no real-time involvement with the bombings whatsoever.”
Christopher Stanley, from KRW Law, solicitor for the Hamilton family, said: “The deceased should be at the heart of the inquest process.”
Appearing without counsel, he said the family had not been at the heart of any investigation into the Guildford pub bombings for 46 years.
Ms Hamilton died alongside Caroline Slater, 18, William Forsyth, 18, and John Hunter, 17, in the first blast at the Horse and Groom on 5 October, along with 21-year-old plasterer Paul Craig.
Mr Stanley also told the inquest the Hamiltons had approached the Legal Aid Agency, Home Office, Ministry of Defence, Cabinet Office for Veteran Affairs, and Royal British Legion for legal funding, without success, while social media and crowdfunding appeals could not be relied on.
He said: “It’s important to have it on the record that it’s a very sad and sorry state of affairs.”
Mr Travers said he would rule on Mr Armstrong’s application by the end of November.
With many thanks to: BBC News England for the original story
Programmes such as BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight On The Troubles:A Secret History are the closest we’ll come to separating fact from fiction in our turbulent past, argues Robin Wilson
The compelling BBC Northern Ireland series Spotlight On The Troubles was subtitled ‘A Secret History’. Yet, its subtext really was the truth commission Northern Ireland has never had, but should, as Amnesty International, supported by many victims and survivors, recommended six years ago.
Watching as a professional journalist the first thing that needs to be said about the series was that it was searingly honest and objective, probing and poking for the truth in the best traditions of investigative journalism.
Some of the region’s best and brightest were involved in its production, and only a public service broadcaster like the BBC would be willing to invest the huge time and resources needed for such a massive project.
The Canadian academic Michael Ignatieff once said that truth commissions limit the scope for “permissible lies”.
The nearest thing Northern Ireland has had to one is David Park’s excellent novel The Truth Commission, but truth has never matched fiction, because, as Amnesty complained in 2013, neither the UK Government nor Northern Ireland’s political parties have wanted it to see the light of day. And Spotlight On The Troubles showed why.
The former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police John Stevens confirmed, on the basis of his three inquiries in Northern Ireland (one of which was mysteriously disrupted by a fire at its headquarters near Carrickfergus), that collusion had indeed taken place between soldiers and police officers and loyalist paramilitaries engaged in sectarian murder campaigns.
The series evidenced several instances of such collusion. It highlighted the role of undercover Army units, such as the Force Research Unit, and of the British intelligence service MI5 in running agents in the paramilitaries, though the journalists were unable to gain access to what they revealed at the end to be a secret store of relevant MI5 documents.
It was frequently claimed during the violence by UK ministers that the British state representatives only ever operated within the law in Northern Ireland – such assertions the series demonstrated to be risible.
But nor did the paramilitaries escape the fullest censure – especially those among their leaders who reinvented themselves as “peacemakers”.
As first revealed by another tenacious investigative journalist Ed Moloney in his 2002 book, A Secret History Of The IRA, Gerry Adams was responsible for the setting up of the “unknowns” unit of the organisation in the 1970s in west Belfast to “disappear” alleged civilian informers, such as a Protestant mother-of-10 Jean McConville. The idea was to avoid the opprobrium the IRA would incur by its role in the executions becoming known.
Jean McConville’s body was only found by accident decades later, buried on a beach in Co Louth. Adams, often a loquacious media interviewee, refused to co-operate with the BBC NI series.
As for the late Martin McGuinness, he was – as again Moloney first revealed – “northern commander” of the IRA when northern command authorised the “human bomb” tactic.
In 1990 Patsy Gillespie, a civilian cook at an Army base in Derry, was strapped into his van with a bomb and forced to drive to a checkpoint, where he and five soldiers were remotely blown up while his family were held hostage by the IRA.
Both these sets of actions constituted war crimes under the Rome Statute of 1998 – coincidentally the year of the Belfast Agreement, where Adams and McGuinness were prominent at the talks table – establishing the International Criminal Court.
The loyalist paramilitaries came across in the series as unapologetic thugs. Hannah Arendt, attending the trial of Adolf Eichmann for Nazi war crimes in Jerusalem in 1961, famously observed that he represented the “banality of evil” – and so did they.
They were the perfect foot-soldiers for those whom political scientists now call “ethnopolitical entrepreneurs”, leaders who exploit division to rise to power. And, of course, the Northern Ireland example par excellence was Ian Paisley.
Not only did the Spotlight team give chapter and verse on Ulster Resistance, the outfit Paisley and his then DUP sidekick and successor as First Minister Peter Robinson, established to resist the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, the series also documented the extent of Paisley’s involvement in the initiation of the violence in 1969, when UVF bombs deliberately engendered a climate of fear.
Paisley, the programme showed, provided funding for this campaign – belying his characteristic trope of denying that any responsibility could ever attach to him for the violence enacted by his supporters.
So, no wonder we have yet to see a Northern Ireland truth commission, despite the positive experience of more than 20 such bodies around the world – principally in Latin America – in recent decades.
Confusion has often been caused by the usage “South African-style truth commission”, as if that were a model, when, in fact, the immunity it conceded to perpetrators from the-then still-powerful white minority who confessed to their crimes made it an outlier. Truth and justice for victims and survivors can – and should – be pursued in tandem.
Nor has the Northern Ireland “peace process” become a model internationally, despite those who came to advocate this with latter-day missionary zeal.
For, as Spotlight documented, it in no way broke with the abrogation of universal norms – especially of human rights and the rule of law – which characterised the preceding violence.
It merely replaced attempted repression of the IRA by the British state with a realpolitik process of private deals with the Adams/McGuinness leadership.
Which leaves us with the moral quagmire we remain in today, with no democracy at Stormont and with all the sectarian actors continuing to treat politics as the continuation of war by other means, fighting over the narrative of the Troubles.
At least Spotlight On The Troubles has narrowed the scope for their permissible lies.
Dr Robin Wilson is an expert adviser to the Council of Europe on intercultural integration and author of The Northern Ireland Experience Of Conflict And Agreement: A Model For Export? (Manchester UniversityPress). He is currently general editor of Social Europe
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Robin Wilson for the original story
Labour’s shadow chancellor claimed he had not seen or signed the controversial missive, buta picture has emerged of him holding the list of demands
John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, called for MI5 and the UK’s armed police force to be scrapped in a controversial campaign letter.
A picture has emerged showing Mr McDonnell holding the letter earlier this year, despite claims that he had never seen or signed it.
It demands that special police squads – like those that hunt terror suspects – be disbanded, as well as the Monarchy and the House of Lords.
The letter, organised by The Socialist Network as part of their “Socialist Campaign For a Labour Victory” was also signed by a group of Labour-supporting unions.
Mr McDonnell was present at the meeting where the demands were drawn up, despite claims made by his spokesman that he had not seen the letter.
In a tweet accompanying a picture of him holding the list of demands Labour’s shadow chancellor said the campaign: “Is important for ensuring a clear program of socialist demands on a Labour government”.
“SCLV is important for ensuring a clear program of socialist demands on
a Labour government.” @johnmcdonnellMP
7:48 PM – Apr 2, 2015
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And a report about the meeting where the letter was agreed claims Mr McDonnell gave a speech.
The Socialist Campaign report added: “John talked about developing a left policy agenda for the Labour Party, but also the need for a politically solid network of socialist activists to create a “head of steam” around it.
“We discussed the draft statement launching the SCLV and agreed to add demands on the vital issue of childcare.”
“Disband MI5 and special police squads, disarm the police,” the letter states
He said: “Has it not come to something when the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition is not sure what the police’s reaction should be when they are confronted by a Kalashnikov-waving terrorist?”
Labour MPs responded to the letter with fury, with one telling the Sun: “We are about half an inch away from meltdown”.
The letter also called for deportation of failed migrants to be scrapped, an end to tuition fees, high taxes for “the rich”, “free abortion on demand”, big cuts to military spending and Trident to be scrapped.
With many thanks to: The Telegraph and Kate McCann, Senior Political Correspondent for the original story
And according to the sixth episode of Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History, Wright’s predecessor as leader of the Mid-Ulster UVF, the late Robin Jackson, had also been recruited as a state agent.
Jackson, who led the UVF terror campaign in Mid-Ulster from the 1970s through to the early 1990s, is thought to have been personally involved in up to 50 killings during the Troubles.
He had been arrested in 1973 for involvement in a murder, but was never prosecuted despite being identified by the wife of the victim. Charges were dropped, and a number of security sources have told the BBC they believed that was when he was recruited in return for avoiding prosecution.
Former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan told the BBC: “My understanding would be that he was a murderer, a prolific murderer, a very, very dangerous and ruthless man. They never investigated him.”
The BBC claims Jackson’s murder gang included soldiers and RUC officers.
Billy McCauley, a former police officer and accomplice of Jackson in the murder of a Catholic shopkeeper, told the programme: “It would have been a case of meeting republican terror with even greater loyalist terror. That would have been the rationale.”
The programme’s research shows the number of attacks on Catholics – particularly on family members of those connected to republicanism – by the Mid-Ulster UVF rose dramatically when Wright took over as leader of the organisation.
Retired Detective Chief Inspector David Hoare, part of the Historical Inquiries Team, said evidence suggests the RUC didn’t try hard enough to stop the UVF murder gang.
“Forty odd murders and so few people convicted – to me it tells a tale in itself,” he said.
“It raises the question: did the RUC try hard enough or were they not good enough to deal with Mid-Ulster UVF?
“I don’t buy the argument they weren’t good enough.
“They were certainly good enough.”
He also revealed a catalogue of missing evidence in cases relating to the Mid-Ulster gang when he went to reinvestigate the murders of Kevin and Jack McKearney in their butcher’s shop in Moy in 1992, 13 years later.
The McKearney family had strong IRA links, though neither of the victims had involvement with paramilitarism.
“Crucial evidence had been lost,” he said. “A partially destroyed jacket found in the getaway car had disappeared.”
He also revealed in 1998 that hundreds of police files, including those on killings in Mid-Ulster, had been destroyed because of reported asbestos contamination.
“I can’t say how huge the destruction of the records was,” he said.
“There were health and safety measures that could have been taken to clean those exhibits safely, but that wasn’t done.”
Police told the BBC the evidential loss was minimal.
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Mark Bain for the original story