https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js“>http://<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>RTÉ is the first public broadcaster in the world to commit to showing “No Stone Unturned” feature documentary by <a href=”https://twitter.com/alexgibneyfilm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@alexgibneyfilm</a> and Belfast journalists <a href=”https://twitter.com/trevorbirney?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@trevorbirney</a> and Barry McCaffrey on the Loughinisland Massacre. Watch <a href=”https://twitter.com/RTEOne?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@RTEOne</a> Wednesday 2 October 9.35pm <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TruthMatters?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TruthMatters</a> <a href=”https://t.co/96QqDunF2W”>pic.twitter.com/96QqDunF2W</a></p>— RTÉ Press Office (@RTEPress) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RTEPress/status/1174689592571760640?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 19, 2019</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Watchdog widens inquiry after RUC/PSNI ‘failure to disclose’ information on 1992 mass murder at Belfast betting shop
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is facing a barrage of criticism and questions for failing to disclose to a police watchdog “significant” information about loyalist paramilitary murders during the Troubles.
The head of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Michael Maguire, on Wednesday asked the Department of Justice for an independent review into why the force did not share information about a mass shooting of five Catholics at a betting shop in Belfast on 5 February 1992.
The PSNI has apologised and blamed human error, citing “complex challenges associated with voluminous material”. It denied deliberately withholding information.
The release of the information has prompted the ombudsman to pursue new lines of inquiry into about 20 loyalist murders across Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in the 1980s and 1990s. Ombudsman reports into those killings, which were expected in coming weeks, have been delayed.
“It would seem information which police told us did not exist has now been found,” said Maguire.
The ombudsman’s office learned of the information when police prepared to disclose it to relatives of those killed in the 1992 attack as part of civil proceedings.
“Following a request from this office police released this material to us which helped identify significant evidence relevant to a number of our investigations,” said Maguire. “Following on from this police have now also identified a computer system which they say had not been properly searched when responding to previous requests for information.”
The Good Friday agreement is 20 – and Britain can’t afford to forget it
The ombudsman called for an independent review in the interests of “public confidence” into a force set up after the 1998 Good Friday agreement, in the hope the force would win more support from Catholics and nationalists than its predecessor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The PSNI responded swiftly on Wednesday with an apology and promise to overhaul the way it disclosed information.
“We deeply regret that the researchers responding to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland’s request were unable to find and disclose it,” said the deputy chief constable, Stephen Martin. The varying levels of experience and knowledge of researchers accounted for the ombudsman receiving incomplete information but ombudsman staff would now receive “full and unfettered access” to material relating to the crimes, he said.
But groups representing victims expressed dismay and said the incident revived concerns about police collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. The Committee on the Administration of Justice said: “[It] is deeply shocking and the claim that it is due to human error simply insults our intelligence.”
Another group, Relatives for Justice, said there was a systemic problem in disclosure of details about killings involving collusion. It said the independent review should start as a matter of urgency.
Tommy Duffin, whose father, Jack, was one of those killed in the attack at the Sean Graham betting shop, on Ormeau Road, told the BBC that relatives were frustrated by the decades’ long quest to uncover details about the massacre. “All we have got is knock-back after knock-back, and this has nearly broken the camel’s back.”
Sinn Féin requested an urgent meeting with police chiefs to discuss what it termed an “appalling and unacceptable” failure.
With many thanks to: The Guardian for the original story
Police said the sensitive material was held by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
Two men have been arrested over the suspected theft of confidential documents relating to the Loughinisland massacre.
The material, which police say featured in a documentary about the 1994 murders, had been in the possession of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI).
A police spokesman has claimed the theft of the documents “potentially puts lives at risk”.
PONI officers reported the theft to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The PSNI then asked Durham Police to conduct an independent investigation into the theft.
The men, aged 51 and 48, were arrested by officers from the Durham force.
The arrests came on Friday morning after detectives, supported by PSNI officers, searched three properties in the Belfast area.
These included two residential properties and a business premises.
A number of documents and computer equipment seized during the raids will be examined by specialist officers.
The men are being questioned at Musgrave Police Station in Belfast.
A spokesman for Durham Constabulary described the investigation as “complex”.
“This morning’s arrests are a significant development in what has been a complex investigation,” he said.
“The terms of reference given to our inquiry were clear in that the investigation is solely into the alleged theft of material from PONI.
“The theft of these documents potentially puts lives at risk and we will follow the evidence wherever it leads us.”
The UVF terrorists struck as football fans watched the Republic of Ireland team play in the 1994 Fifa World Cup.
In 2011, the Police Ombudsman found there had been major failings in the police investigation following the shootings, but said there was no evidence that police had colluded with the UVF.
However in 2016, a new Ombudsman report found there had been collusion, and the police investigation had been undermined by a desire to protect informers.
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original story.
Last month’s report by the Guardian that thousands of files related to some of the most contentious parts of British colonial history have gone missing from the National Archives seems to support the claim—long-held by campaigners for truth and accountability in Northern Ireland—that the British government has something to hide.
The National Archives’ response seemed to be to shrug its shoulders. Their own code of conduct shows that they endorse the International Council on Archives’ (ICA) Code of Ethics, yet the loss of Troubles-related documents suggests otherwise.
In 1997, Antonio Gonzalez Quintana produced a report for UNESCO on behalf of the ICA entitled Archives of the Security Services of Former Repressive Regimes. Its purpose was to highlight the importance of managing “documentary heritage” in post-conflict countries engaged in transition to democracy, as well as to propose a code of ethics with regard to the way historical documents are handled.
The National Archives (Via: Nick Cooper / Wiki)2
The National Archives (Via: Nick Cooper / Wiki)
Quintana, a Spanish archives expert critical of his own government’s archival policy, shines a light on the ways in which the security forces of repressive regimes worked on a daily basis to collect information on individuals. In fact, he argues that this was often the only way the regime was able to maintain its power. Police and intelligence archives in particular can shed light on these agencies’ motives and behavior during periods of conflict.
“In contrast to the public image which such regimes have tried to present, their real nature can be discovered in the files and indices of the security services,” asserts Gonzalez Quintana.
This is certainly the case in Northern Ireland, where the behavior of British security forces and the RUC during the Troubles as outlined in government files stand in such stark contrast to their public statements.
Ciarán MacAirt is no stranger to the struggle against British intransigence when it comes to confronting the legacy of the past. To say that MacAirt was not surprised about the most recent batch of missing files would be an understatement.
“Welcome to our world,” he wrote on Twitter.
MacAirt is the founder of Paper Trail, a family-led organization and social enterprise that works to uncover archival evidence in support of family-centered truth-recovery efforts in Northern Ireland. Paper Trail is an effort which grew out of MacAirt’s own pursuit of truth: his grandmother, Kathleen Irvine, was one of fifteen people killed in the bombing of McGurk’s Bar in Belfast in 1971.
The story of the bombing and the subsequent family-led campaign to clear the names of their loved ones is chronicled in a book MacAirt published in 2012, although the campaign is far from over.
“The police and the British state have been very consistent in their failure to investigate the mass murder of McGurk’s Bar,” says MacAirt.
“We created the charity, Paper Trail, to help other families target and retrieve information in public records so they would not have to feel the same despondency that our families may have felt when dealing with statutory bodies.”
He says he has been confronting the British state’s “monolith of lies” for most of his adult life, even taking the British Ministry of Defence, the National Archives, and the Information Commissioner’s Office to court over a specific file related to his grandmother’s murder. As it turned out, the missing file contained information about the placement of the bomb at McGurk’s bar, which contradicted the initial narrative of events put forth by the security forces. The court battle lasted three years, and resulted in a partial victory for MacAirt.
What’s become clear through the work of the McGurk’s campaign and Paper Trail is that authorities have not provided families, or even the courts, with all the available evidence related to their cases.
As recently as December, the McGurk’s Bar families learned in open court that former British agent and UVF commander, Gary Haggarty, passed along information related to the bombing to his police handlers. According to MacAirt, this was known to the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman’s office, yet unlike other families affected by Haggarty’s testimony, none of the McGurks families were contacted prior to court, nor was Haggarty’s information ever investigated or recorded in official reports.
Given their decades-long campaign for truth, this could hardly be an oversight. But regardless of whether this treatment is intentional, one thing is clear: the treatment of the families, even in the face of their ongoing suffering, is not a concern in the eyes of the British government. It simply doesn’t care if their actions or inactions compound the families’ pain.
MacAirt is steadfast in his belief that the most recent report of lost documents is further proof of a concerted effort on behalf of the British government to hide evidence of its role in human rights abuses, collusion, and cover ups.
“The efforts to disappear information recently reported are the tip of the information iceberg,” claims MacAirt. “I believe that the British state is still at war and information is today’s battlefield – but it is much more to do with British national shame than national security, as the British state scrambles to bury its war crimes.”
“In effect, a so-called first world western democracy killed its own citizens for its own political ends. So all of our families are still very much on the front line,” he says.
Indeed, what is often left out of news stories about lost documents or even political discussions about how best to deal with the legacy of the past is how each and every new turn of events affects the bereaved and the survivors of these atrocities.
“Every failed investigation, every court session does nothing but re-traumatize victims and survivors,” MacAirt points out. “We know the lengths to which the police and the state will go to hinder and obstruct families in their pursuit of truth so to see it reported that they are disappearing a few files is nothing in comparison to what they have done in the past or what they are hiding now.”
Imagine finding out that your loved ones were killed in a bombing from watching the news. This is exactly what happened in 1971 when the RUC failed to notify families in the aftermath of the McGurk’s Bar bombing.
Imagine then hearing the official explanation of the security forces–which was to blame the victims despite overwhelming evidence in their possession that contradicted this narrative. State authorities used this lie and subsequent campaign of disinformation in the immediate aftermath of the bombing to place the blame on the shoulders of those who died or were injured, implying that they were responsible at worst and guilty by association at best.
For more than 40 years, families in this case—just one of hundreds in which collusion is alleged—have fought to uncover what happened and why. They are still fighting.
Gonzalez Quintana believes that the strongest argument for the preservation of historical documents post-conflict lies in their use as documentary sources for the victims and survivors of repressive regimes. He also argues that they are essential for the exercise of individual rights in the new political situation, including amnesty, pensions, and general civil rights.
“Documents accumulated by the organs of repression are important for the memory of the people, and serve as an irreplaceable testimony,” wrote Gonzalez Quintana report.
What, if any, avenues exist to hold the National Archives responsible for protecting such sensitive material? Is there any recourse for families whose quest for truth in the killings of their loved ones continues?
It has been four months since British Secretary of State James Brokenshire pledged to launch yet another public consultation on legacy issues. The government claims it is still committed to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, and that Brokenshire is waiting for the right time to begin the consultation.
These words remain empty in the absence of concerted action.
In the meantime, it is up to Paper Trail, campaigning families, and the groups that support them to continue their work of holding the British government to account.
With many thanks to the: Irish.Central and Ciarán MacAirt for the origional story.
This following letter was posted in The Irish News today May 1st 2017.
DOUB Beattie believes Crown Force members, who committed murders should face murder charges.
He believes in British justice, Courts and Judges. When British inquests and investigations threaten to uncover proof to charge British Forces in British Courts, Beattie shouts ‘Frankenstein Justice’ outside Belfast City Hall. Mr Beattie’s reference may be truer than he thinks. Frankenstein, of course, was a fictional character, destroyed by the monster he himself created. The British created monstrous injustices to legalise murders over decades of conflict. If inquests, criminal trials and investigations fought for by victims’ families go ahead, the truth about these monstrous injustices may destroy decades of lies at the heart of British rule.
How does an inquest into the ‘Ballymurphy massacre‘ or an inquest into the British State ‘Murder of Pat Finnucane’ fit Beattie’s ‘Frankenstein Justice’ ?
Along with Saoradh, the Ballymurphy Massacre families took to Belfast’s streets on Good Friday, perhaps wondering why Mr Beattie thinks their loved ones unworthy of a legal inquest. Anyone who understands these families knows they have not campaigned for nearly 46 years, because of some far sighted political plot or Irish fondness for inquests. These families contend that 11 of their loved ones, were murdered openly by British troops in August 1971. The dead including a Catholic priest and 45-year-old mother, were unarmed. Some shot as many as 14 times. British Royal Military Police then declared British Paratroopers innocent and branded their loved ones guilty.
Eyewitness were not allowed to dispute the British account, nor ask why no British casualties were inflicted, or weapons recovered from so many dead IRA gunmen. British military strategists, like Brigadier General Frank Kitson, were writing how “Law should be used just another weapon in the government’s arsenal….. little more than propaganda cover for disposal of unwanted members of the public.” (Low Intensity Operations) Such policies required an undeclared immunity for troopers disposing permanently of unwanted members of the public. It worked so well in Ballymurphy that the British decided to do a replay five months later in Deery (Bloody Sunday). There British Troopers, who Mr Beattie boasts defend our right to protest, defended us by shooting down protesters, with the troublesome mistake of too many witnesses on Bloody Sunday.
The Ballymurphy Massacare families are entitled to put their sworn testimony to an inquest where, unlike Beattie, they need not fear the truth. Many vitims’ families have that right. There is no mystery here. The British created and rubber-stamped monstrous injustices like Ballymurphy and many many more you won’t have heard of as a matter of policy. They hide behind the DUP, or empty words like ‘imbalance’ and ‘pernicious counter-narratives’. ‘Frankenstein Justice’ just means they fear seeing their lies being destroyed by the monster they created.
With many thanks to: Martin Galvin, New York, The Irish News.