Belfast truth campaigner says “information is today’s battlefield”

“Archives are the most faithful reflection of the history of a people and thus constitute the most explicit memory of nations”
-Antonio Gonzalez Quintana

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countries engaged in transition to democracy, as well as to propose a code of ethics with regard to the way historical documents are handled.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.

Remembering 16-year-old John Boyle murdered by the SAS

The SAS killed 16 year old John Boyle, the day after Boyle had stumbled upon an arms cache in a local graveyard. He rushed home to tell his father, who phoned the police. It seems that Boyle returned to the graveyard the next day out of curiosity, whereupon he was shot by the SAS, who had the graveyard staked out.

The first statement [from the army] said a patrol spotted three men acting suspiciously and when challenged one pointed a rifle at them. One of the soldiers then fired five shots killing John Boyle. The second statement said only one man was present and he pointed a rifle at the soldiers when challenged; later two other men came to the scene [these were Boyle’s Father and brother] and they were arrested and handed over to the police. The third statement said no challenge was made to the man, that this was impracticable as he was 10 yards from them pointing a rifle in their direction.
The Army statement added that ‘the rifle was later found with its magazine fitted and ready to fire. In fact, the Boyles had no paramilitary connections and the rifle was unloaded. The SAS men were tried and acquitted of murder, but the judge, Lord Lowry, declared that he was unable to decide if Boyle had picked up the rifle. Lowry stated that the SAS statement was ‘self justificatory, and, in the context of the Boyle family’s reputation, untrue.

With many thanks to: Marianne Collins – Friends of Relatives of Justice.

Scale of the IRA’s collusion with the British state was shocking

It is too simplistic to paint collusion as something that took place between the state and loyalist paramilitaries. There is, in fact, a 40-year history of republicans toiling for the security services

In the lore of the IRA, there was traditionally no one more loathsome than the informer. This was thought to be the rare and despicable individual who would betray his comrades.

Some former members of the IRA now wonder if there were more informers inside the Provos than actual committed members.

Certainly, that appears to be true of the loyalists. The Stevens Inquiry reported that nearly every loyalist it spoke to was an agent.

Darragh McIntyre’s BBC Panorama programme last week suggested different levels of collusion between the security forces and paramilitaries.

The most common type seems to have been the protection of agents who had killed and were likely to kill again.

On occasions, RUC Special Branch knew of planned attacks, tried to intercept them, and failed.

According to the De Silva report, they often knew of plans to murder other paramilitaries and did little to prevent these.

Invented by Teads
Furthermore, De Silva found that both the Army and Special Branch were suggesting targets to agents inside paramilitary groups, specifically to the loyalist killer Brian Nelson, since the focus of De Silva’s report was the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.

The UDA regarded Finucane as an intelligence officer for the Provisional IRA, who was engaged in money laundering.

Some in Special Branch encouraged them to target him.

No similar review of documentation has examined collusion between the state and members of the IRA – but it happened.

The De Silva report, for instance, describes efforts to protect two senior republicans.

One of them is given only a codename – ‘T/02’. The other was Gerry Adams.

When Brian Nelson revealed a plan to bomb Adams by placing a limpet mine on his black taxi during the 1987 Genral Election campaign, the Army did not trust Special Branch with the information and set up its own operation to protect him.

Later, soldiers recovered the mine.

When the UDA returned to discussing how they might kill Adams, some in Special Branch appear to have suggested that Pat Finucane would be a better target.

De Silva found that state agencies justified suggesting targets to Nelson on the grounds that these attacks would absorb the energies of the loyalists and be easier to intercept. Ultimately, lives would be saved.

But they also found that Special Branch wasn’t all that keen to warn a target if he was a ‘thorn in the side’.

And they saw Finucane as one of those, having twice before failed to alert him to threats against him.

Another factor in the planning of the murder of Pat Finucane is that Nelson feared that if yet another attack went wrong, he would be exposed as an agent.

So, he kept the planning of the attack on Finucane secret from his handlers.

The Army itself had considered the other danger; that if Nelson was too successful in hitting senior IRA members, he would quickly be exposed.

Further, the Army would be in serious trouble if one of its agents was to kill Adams, an elected MP.

The earliest suggestion of an operation being allowed to proceed to cover for an agent was the bombing attack on London by Gerry Kelly, the Price sisters and others in March 1973.

Dolours Price, one of the bomb team, said in later years that the mission had been compromised and that someone close to the planning of it in Belfast had betrayed it.

Even so, Kelly and the Price sisters and the rest of the team were not arrested until after planting their bombs.

By 1972, the IRA was realising that it was going to have to kill an awful lot of people in the Catholic community to stop intelligence leaking out about them and that’s when it hit on the idea of ‘disappearing’ suspects, rather than dumping their bodies in back alleys.

Three times they had just dumped the body and then said nothing.

That’s what they did with John Kavanagh, Martin Owens and Sam Boyd. Those killings have never been explained.

On the same day that they detained Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright to ‘disappear’ them, Provos went into the club where William Bonner was drinking and lined everyone against the wall then picked him out and shot him in the head.

Some of the informers inside the IRA continued with their republican activities. Some were, indeed committed republicans, who felt they had been compromised by the Army, or police, but still tried to protect IRA operations; in effect, deceiving both sides and trying to maintain their credibility.

A recent article in An Phoblacht, written to discredit one of the biggest-known informers, Sean O’Callaghan, acknowledged that the IRA itself sometimes knew men were informers and preferred not to harm them.

At the end of the Provo campaign, we began to get some idea not just of the degree to which the IRA had been penetrated, but to what level.

The biggest shock was that Freddie Scappaticci, who was on the IRA security team, tasked with catching informers, was working for the British.

The Police Ombudsman is now investigating several killings of alleged informers by the IRA ‘nutting squad’.

What other word than collusion better describes a state agent accusing people of informing, extracting confessions from them by torture and then killing them?

This raises the appalling prospect that many of those executed as informers were killed to protect real informers operating at a higher level.

Claims have been made by a former British Army agent that Martin McGuinness was himself an informer with the codename ‘J118’, though he has emphatically denied this and clearly his former comrades believe him, or he would have had to flee for his life.

But former Provos critical of the peace process routinely rehearse such claims against McGuinness and Adams and close relations on social media.

We do know that the head of administration in Sinn Fein, Denis Donaldson, was a police informer throughout most of the peace process.

He appears to be an example of an agent working for both sides, for he was implicated in gathering intelligence inside Stormont on members of the security forces and the Prison Service, many of whom had to move home after the scale of his spying was unearthed.

At the end of the Troubles, IRA members were afraid to go out on operations, because they didn’t trust those they were sent out with not to be informers, or spies.

This massive infiltration of the paramilitaries, combined with a failure to arrest and convict many players, including agents, derived from a type of policing and security response which prioritised intelligence over evidence.

Indeed, evidence was squandered, or destroyed, presumably to protect intelligence channels.

De Silva, who exposed more of this than anyone else, concluded, ‘that the intelligence-led security response to the Troubles did play a significant role in constraining all terrorist organisations, to the extent that they were forced to realise their aims were not achievable by violent means.

If that is so, It is a story that should be told.

With many thanks to: Malachi O’Doherty,  Belfast Telegraph for the origional story.


His Holiness the Pope has a new Lamborghini

Pope Francis has been given a godly V10 supercar. Amazingly, he’s not keeping it.

Pope Francis has a new Lamborghini. A bespoke, one-off, striped Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2, to be precise. That’s right. The head of the Roman-Catholic faith, on speed dial to the all-seeing one upstairs, has a purist’s rear-drive Lambo. Hallelujah.

However, the Pope didn’t spend £155,400 on a white wedge of V10-poowered loveliness. In fact, in was donated to him (Him?) free of charge, by Lamborghini. Is Sant’Agata hoping divine intervention will make the new Urus SUV the best super-4×4 ever?

Unlikely. Actually, it’s a donation for charitable causes, much like when Ferrari donated the Pope the final Enzo ever made, to be auctioned for funds to help survivors of the 2003 tsunami. This Huracán, as signed by his Holiness, will be auctioned by RM Sotheby’s on 12 May 2018.

The funds generated will be allocated by the Pope himself to causes including rebuilding homes and Christian places of worship in Iraq, helping victims of human trafficking, and two Italian-based African aid charities. The winning bidder, meanwhile, gets a Huracán RWD wearing a Vatican flag-inspired paint job, and the best excuse ever to waive any speeding tickets…

With many thanks to: Top Gear for the origional story.

More Harassment Tonight from the Armed British Scum in the RUC/PSNI.

More RUC/PSNI Harassment Please report to a solicitor of localy “DON’T STAY SILENT!”

More harassment tonight from the armed british thugs in the psni ruc!!

Up to a dozen of these men where involved in  what can only be described as a clear case of harassment and intimidation of republicans on the streets of lurgan yet again!!

Your actions wont deter us!! In fact they will make us more resilliant againt all your attempts to intimidate us!!

“They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken”

With many thanks to: Christopher Hamill.