Category Archives: policing

Let’s not gloss over the facts

From David McKittrick’s article in today’s Independent, “Staying on one side or the other makes life less complicated”:

Their widely differing takes on the Troubles were starkly illustrated by a poll that showed 86 per cent of Protestants approved of the police using plastic bullets while 87 per cent of Catholics disapproved.

The gulf in these mindsets is so wide that, apart from television and radio debates, it is extremely rare for committed unionists and committed nationalists to debate such things.

McKittrick doesn’t provide any explanation or attempt at a reason to explain this “gulf in mindsets”–and I’m already bored thinking about the reasoning behind this–but the facts are out there, and it bothers me to see an issue like this laid out there in the “we just see things differently” sort of way.

In 2000, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, now Director of the Tranisitional Justice Program at the University of Ulster, published a study called the Politics of Force: Conflict Management and State Violence in Northern Ireland  that I am reading as background for my thesis.   Her study shows notable patterns in the use of state force and the typology of victims–namely that an overwhelming number of victims (85%) of state violence were from the minority (Catholic) community, as opposed to 11% from the Protestant community (with 4% “other”).  Kind of puts the poll in a different perspective now, doesn’t it?

“If we acknowledge that lethal force has, in fact, been a prevalent and widespread component of the minority community’s experience within the state,” writes Ní Aoláin, “then this acknowledgement, in turn, must validate and reinforce the minority’s perception of the states and its agents.”

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Filed under belfast, British army, British government, cross-community, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, policing

Truth last big issue to be resolved in conflict

From Jim Gibney in this week’s Irish News via Newshound:

This Sunday thousands of people from all over Ireland will march to Belfast’s City Hall in memory of the 10 hunger strikers behind a banner calling on the British government to tell the truth about its role in the conflict.

The march organisers – Sinn Féin and a number of relatives’ organisations – are focusing on the word truth because they believe the truth is the last big issue to be resolved in the conflict.

By and large the truth is known about the role played by the IRA and loyalist organisations because they claimed responsibility for their actions which caused the deaths of hundreds of people.

Thousands of republicans and loyalists were also imprisoned for their part in the conflict.

It is also public knowledge that the crown forces killed hundreds of people, some of them in massacres in the early 1970s like Bloody Sunday in Derry and in areas of Belfast like Ballymurphy and the New Lodge Road, yet only a few members of the crown forces spent time in prison.

The fact that the public know the extent of the involvement in the deaths of thousands of people by the various armed groups of course does not make it any easier for the relatives of those killed to carry their burden of grief.

This was painfully obvious last Tuesday when the relatives of 11 people gunned down by the British army in Ballymurphy over a four-day period following the introduction of internment in August 1971 recalled the horror of the time.

As part of the Feile programme Relatives For Justice assisted the relatives of those killed in Ballymurphy to tell their frightening and heart-breaking tale.

The relatives of the dead have struggled for over three decades to force the British government to tell the truth about the circumstances in which the Paras, the same regiment responsible for Bloody Sunday, shot their loved ones dead and then lied to the world about it.

For many relatives the burden of grief is more difficult to deal with when the people charged with protecting life and upholding human rights, in this instance the British government, are in fact guilty of fragrantly violating both.

For relatives of those killed this violation is made much worse by the British government’s refusal to acknowledge the part it played in the conflict and the cavalier manner in which it dismisses demands from relative’s organisations for them to tell the truth.

Thirty-six years after the killings in Ballymurphy the British government has yet to say those killed were innocent; it has yet to apologise to the relatives.

The British government’s refusal to face up to its part in the conflict stems from its belief that its actions in Ireland were morally superior to for example the IRA.

That its presence here is legitimate and on that basis whatever its armed forces do is in defence of democracy against terrorists.

This is reflected in the myth peddled by the British government and its apologists that its military occupation here is in fact a peace mission; that it was not involved in a war.

The absurdity of this view has many consequences and is particularly felt by relatives seeking justice who lost a loved one at the hands of the crown forces.

It is also reflected for example in the production in July past of an equally absurd British army publication about ‘Operation Banner’ the British army’s version of its occupation or as is likes to call it ‘campaign on British soil’ by the “armed forces of a developed nation against an irregular force”.

This denial of the reality of what everyone else accepts also leads the British government to continue perpetrating yet another grave injustice: the cover-up of its involvement in the murder of hundreds of people, mainly Catholics through collusion with loyalists.

Despite overwhelming and documented evidence which proves hundreds of people were killed as a result of collusion with loyalists, the British government continues to refuse to admit it orchestrated this murder campaign through its crown forces – the British army and RUC.

The relatives’ determination has the British government in the dock of public opinion.

There it will remain until it cries truth.

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Agents given “free reign to murder”

Journalist Stephen Breen reports on ex-RUC officer Laurence Templeton coming forward to support allegations of collusion between Special Branch and paramilitary informers in today’s Sunday Life:

This is the ex-RUC man who last night claimed Special Branch officers ignored the murderous exploits of their agents – to gain favour and promotion.

Former officer Laurence Templeton – who received praise from Sir Hugh Orde for his “exemplary” service over three decades – broke his silence to allege that a small minority of officers brought shame to the force by allowing terrorist killers a free reign.

The 50-year-old – whose career included three years in Special Branch – spoke exclusively to Sunday Life in a bid to help the relatives of loved ones murdered by loyalist and republican informers.

In an explosive interview, the ex-officer claimed that:

  • Special Branch officers competed against each other to see who ran the best agent;
  • Some officers were “seduced” by power;
  • High-level informants were known as the “protected species”, and;
  • Policemen were sacrificed to protect republican spies.

Said the ex-cop: “The vast majority of handlers ran their agents both professionally and morally – but there were officers who were only concerned about which agent was perceived as the best.

“Their careers were more important to them than arresting people for murder. Promotion was paramount.

“They sat on intelligence about certain murders in order to move up the ladder – they were seduced by power. As a result of my experience in the force and of what I have seen and heard, I have no doubt there were officers who were complicit in murder.

“There is a tendency for this society to bury its head in the sand and pretend it never happened – but I, along with many other officers, know that it did happen. I was fully aware of a mass of intelligence on a wide range of individuals but couldn’t understand why this information was never acted upon.

“I also firmly believe that decent policemen were allowed to die to protect certain informants.”

He added: “The public are not shocked at terrorists killing people, but they should be appalled when the state colludes with those very same people.

“If police officers had been told during their training they would only be investigating certain murders then I’m sure, like me, they would’ve walked out. I personally would like to know why certain murders were not selected for investigation and who made these decisions.

“It’s only when those questions are answered will we get to a clear picture of who was actually running things in Northern Ireland at that time.

“Senior officers in Special Branch and CID, in my opinion, became nodding dogs and lost touch with the reality of day to day policing. These people were controlled by top police and MI5.

“I personally knew of one senior officer who knew he wouldn’t get a result over the McCord murder because Haddock was untouchable. I believe, in the end, it was Haddock who was actually running his handlers.”

The former police officer also believes that Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s investigation into the murder of Raymond McCord Jnr could have gone further, adding: “I believe it could have been even stronger.

“But I was appalled by the significant number of high-ranking ex-officers who refused to assist O’Loan even as witnesses.

“I am not tarnishing all officers and I can’t understand how certain people are still in denial about what went on. I realise it may be difficult for some people to come forward at this stage of their lives, but it’s never too late.

“The real heroes of the conflict are the vast majority of officers who helped save people’s lives on a daily basis and those who continue to serve, both uniform and CID.”

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Filed under belfast, collusion, human rights, ireland, MI5, Nuala O'Loan, policing, Raymond McCord, RUC, Special Branch

Few tears shed

From the Ulster Herald: No misty eyes about ‘Banner’

Few tears will be shed for Operation Banner, the British army’s 38-year involvement in the conflict here. Despite nostalgic footage of housewives treating squaddies to cups of tea, this military adventure should be remembered for some of the most destructive events of the Troubles. British military policy fanned the flames of communal strife and brought us to the brink many times.

Ostensibly sent over to help the police “keep the peace,” Britain’s army was soon immersed in a draconian onslaught against those who opposed or even questioned the state. It began with the Falls Road ‘Curfew’ and quickly moved to internment and Bloody Sunday. If anyone had illusions about the “peace” credentials of the troops who poured onto our streets in 1969, they were soon shattered in partisan application of military might.

…the entire military operation rested on the notion that Catholics and Protestants here somehow just fell out. Promulgated around the world, the carefully fostered pretext for thousands of troops even took root here. It meant brushing under the carpet not only decades of misrule in the North, but also Britain’s obdurate refusal to do anything before the dams burst in violent denial of civil rights.

The fact that the army’s initial welcome was short-lived bears out the fact that it was never here to bring peace.

Its role actually turned civil unrest into civil war.

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Tommy Makem at the Free Derry Fleadh

Folk musician and singer Tommy Makem, best known as one of The Clancy Brothers, died of lung cancer today. The following is a great video from YouTube of Makem both at and being interviewed about Free Derry’s “Liberation Fleadh” in celebration of the nationalist community’s self-declared autonomous zone.  A “fleadh” is a music festival.  This video contains some really great footage.

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more on the end of the british terrorist campaign

From the North Belfast News:

A brutal truth

Like all armies, the British army loves its codenames. Operation Banner is the innocuous moniker that it imposed on what it described as its operation to support the local police here. That’s code for the latest attempt to subdue the natives – the one that began in 1969 and which comes to an end on July 31, 2007.
We report this week on the reaction of a number of people affected by the conflict on the end of Operation Banner, a significant event, even if the fact that British troops will remain in situ here makes it a largely symbolic affair – kind of like the British army saying, as the IRA has already done, that its war is over.

Much has been said and written in recent days and weeks about whether Operation Banner has been a success or a failure. It’s all so much bluster and waffle. The fact of the matter is that once the British government decided to put heavily armed troops on the streets of Belfast, that was an admission of failure in itself. London had nearly fifty years to correct the grotesque excesses of the Stormont regime and decided that the best course of action was to do nothing – for that crime of omission is it was equally, if not more, culpable than the hardline unionist despots who ran the six counties as their own private Protestant fiefdom simply because they could.

History willl relate that the British troops were put on the streets of Belfast initially to protect beleaguered Catholics. History should also relate that the troops were there to protect beleaguered Catholics who were under threat from a ragtag paramilitary militia which was part of a rotten, sectarian regime which the British government encouraged and condoned for half a century.

Just as Tony Blair’s legacy will forever be the obscenity that is Iraq, so the British army’s legacy of this most recent phase of the conflict will be the murderous reality of its collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. All sides have indulged in the most appalling atrocities and crimes, but the brutal truth is that the arming and directing of loyalist killer gangs whose sole raison d’etre was to target Catholics was not something carried out by rogue agents, rather it was sanctioned at the highest level. Don’t ask us if that’s the case, ask John Stevens. Nowhere was the bloody British army/UDA/UVF pogrom against Catholics carried out with more ferocity than in North Belfast.

While they sound their trumpets and hand out the medals and pat themselves on the back as Operation Banner comes to an end, North Belfast Catholics will remember its many innocent victims.

And From the Balcony:

That’s Fascism!

It was like throwing a snowball at a juggernaut today trying to bring some balance to the British salute to their boys and their Operation Banner.

Still, in and out of studios most of the day to state that the British military occupation of nationalist areas left almost every nationalist working class family traumatised at some stage or other over the period of the 35-year war. The ghosts of Majella O’Hare, Leo Norney, Kidso Reilly and many others were entitled to that much: that someone throw cant about ‘mistakes’ back in the face of the righteous British Army spokespersons (and their apologists) who were wheeled out today.

My favourite account of the day came from Liam Stone who recalled how he and his father looked out their Ballymurphy window at hundreds of British soldiers with Saracens and armoured vehicles making their way up the Whiterock Road in the first major riots of Easter 1970. Liam recalled how his father, who had served with the British Army and was a prisoner of war in Danzig, seethed as he saw the heavily-armed forces advance against a civilian population. “He fought Nazism so he knew what facism was and that’s what he called that display that day, fascism.” (I paraphrase, you can hear Liam, he’s almost the very last speaker on today’s Talkback.)

Apparently the BBC  needs a little help with their technology, because when you download the Talkback highlights from the Whiterock Community Center, it is only a minute and a half long, with the last part of the news and about fifteen seconds of the introduction to the bit (and no interviews). Bastards!  I really wanted to hear Liam Stone, in part because I interviewed him for my thesis, and he gave me the most amazing quote for my paper…he basically stated my thesis in his own words during the interview.  It was beautiful.  And maybe one day I will finish it and you can all read it…

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troops out! “operation banner” officially ends

At midnight on Tuesday, July 31st, the British military operation in the north of Ireland (“Operation Banner”) officially came to an end, with all troops were recalled to their barracks–a mostly symbolic gesture following what Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly called “generations of an Orwellian nightmare of oppression.”

The North Belfast MLA, himself jailed in 1973 over an Old Bailey bomb plot in London, recalled the lengths the Army went to gather intelligence as the conflict intensified.

He said: “I remember around `72, when I was going about, nearly every working class Catholic`s house was on computer.

I was on the run at the time and if I gave a name they (the British) would ask me what colour the wallpaper was in that household because they had it on file.

They used to walk into houses at night and count everyone there, from babies up, to keep check.

When you talk about (Orwell`s book) Nineteen Eighty-Four, this was real Big Brother stuff, big time.”

Mr Kelly, part of the Sinn Fein team who negotiated a political deal which has led to the ending of Operation Banner, insisted the military withdrawal is hugely significant.

We have had British troops and other Crown Forces on the ground now into a second generation, and it was an oppressive presence.

People were interned and its now accepted that the majority of them were innocent.

Before they had intelligence, internment was being used as a weapon against nationalists and Catholic people.

Then in North Belfast, for 25 years the Army were on top of the flats on the New Lodge Road.

You had the mother of Peter McBride, who was shot dead by two Scots Guards in 1992, living under an Army post where she had to watch the regiment going up and down every day.

The harassment was so in your face. These are emotive words, but it was oppressive in a very personal way.

That`s the type of thing that was put under the banner of counter-insurgency. But when you look back at it now it was the simple repetition of tactics that were used by the British Army in every single arena in the world they went into as a colonial power.

It was a clever move to try and suppress a particular section of our community who were Irish republicans. But it also affected people who were simply Catholic nationalists.”

The military tactics also helped persuade many republicans to join the IRA`s armed struggle, Mr Kelly added.

“They helped to recruit into the organisation by their actions,” he said.

He also described the efforts to strike a demilitarisation deal as painstaking.

“You could have negotiated for hours on end over a single military post.

But a lot of people are glad to see this day happen, and it will only help to generate inter-community dialogue.”

More than a quarter of a million troops were brought to the north over the course of the conflict.  Troop levels will now not exceed 5,000, which is apparently a normal peace-time army.  At least until we can get them to leave for good…

Interestingly enough (though certainly no surprise to anyone familiar with the British track record in Ireland), the soldiers that remain in the north will be given “slightly more power than anywhere else in the UK.” In fact, they will be permitted to stop and question anyone about anything and hold them indefinitely until they comply:

There’s a definite irony in having the troops move out on July 31st and giving them powers for arrest on August 1,” said Jane Winter, director of British- Irish Rights Watch. “On the face of it, there’s no rationale for that.”

The Committee on the Administration of Justice said the new power is ” unacceptable”, but Government defends it as a necessary preparation.

“We hope that it won’t be necessary to have troops on the streets again, ” an NIO spokes- person said, “but we must be prepared and as long as there is the potential for serious public order incidents, the Army should be available to support the police and this role requires the military to have powers over and above the ordinary citizen.

“Military support is not necessary for public order situations elsewhere in the UK, and therefore the powers are not required in England, Scotland or Wales.”

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