Category Archives: shoot to kill policy

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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Filed under belfast, British army, collusion, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, policing, RUC, shoot to kill policy, war

Shoot to kill inquiry to be reopened

From the 20 July article by Owen Bowcott in the Guardian:

One of the most controversial inquiries of the Troubles, involving claims that police officers in Northern Ireland secretly adopted a “shoot to kill” policy, has been reopened, the Guardian has learned.

The allegations that republican terrorist suspects were deliberately killed rather than being arrested led to an investigation by John Stalker, then deputy chief constable of Manchester, in the mid 1980s. But his report was never published, and there was political uproar after he was removed from his post just at the point where he believed he was about to obtain an MI5 tape of one of the shootings.

Now the files he compiled are being re-examined by the police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, who will decide whether to launch a new investigation. In an interview with the Guardian, Nuala O’Loan revealed that she had been asked by the government to see whether there are legal grounds to reopen the inquiry, focusing on the killing in 1982 of Gervaise McKerr.

McKerr was shot dead alongside two other unarmed IRA men – Sean Burns and Eugene Toman – by Royal Ulster Constabulary officers following a chase through a checkpoint near Lurgan in 1982. Their car was riddled with 109 bullets.

The British government has always denied the security forces had a shoot to kill policy, and has resisted repeated calls from families to look again at what happened.

Three years ago, the House of Lords blocked an attempt to order a fresh investigation. But pressure to look into the matter has come from the Council of Europe, which has requested that the UK rectify previous investigative failures.

Any new investigation could focus on whether there was an explicit shoot to kill policy, and whether there was any attempt to tamper with evidence before Mr Stalker mounted his inquiry.

It would also provide encouragement to families who have been seeking compensation for what they have alleged were unlawful killings.

The government has referred the issue back to Mrs O’Loan. It has told the Council of Europe that the McKerr case “is now a matter for the police ombudsman who is responsible for investigating deaths as a result of actions of police officers. She will identify possible further evidentiary opportunities and will look into the original police investigation … the ombudsman has given an assurance to expedite the case as best she can”. There is no time limit on inquiries into the past.

Any reinvestigation would be complex because three police officers were acquitted of the killings more than 20 years ago. But at her office in Belfast, Mrs O’Loan confirmed the files were now with her. “The government has asked us to look at McKerr. It’s quite complex whether we have the legal power to investigate or not. Police officers were charged with murder and acquitted.

“The law says you can’t reinvestigate if there’s been a previous hearing. But it may be there are other issues that need to be investigated.”

Mrs O’Loan is not yet sure whether she will have the resources or legal authority to do so. But she recognises that the inquiry might finally put to rest one of the most poisonous controversies of the Troubles.

The series of alleged shoot to kill incidents in question all involved RUC headquarters mobile support units in Co Armagh during November and December 1982. The first resulted in the deaths of McKerr, Burns and Toman; the second led to the death of Michael Tighe, shot on a farm near an IRA arms cache; and the third involved the killing of two INLA members, Seamus Grew and Roddy Carroll, at another checkpoint.

Mr Stalker was brought in to investigate the shootings. He was removed from the inquiry shortly before it was due to report in 1986 – taken off the case at the moment he believed he was about to obtain an MI5 tape of one of the shootings.

He was suspended over allegations of associating with criminals in Manchester, but was later cleared. The move generated public suspicion about the motives for his departure and a political furore in parliament. His report has never been published.

Jane Winter, of British Irish Rights Watch, who has been closely involved with the case, said: “We welcome the fact that the ombudsman is looking at the police misconduct allegation, but we think the McKerr family should have got a proper international judicial inquiry. She cannot reinvestigate the murders from the top down or whether politicians sanctioned this operation.”

The McKerr family has pursued legal actions through the European courts, claiming that Gervaise was deprived of his life intentionally in breach of his human rights.

In his book, Stalker, published in 1988, the former deputy chief constable revealed that when he examined the McKerr car 21 months after the shooting, he found fragments of a bullet still embedded in the vehicle, suggesting vital evidence had been ignored. Cartridge cases, he alleged, had also disappeared from the scene.

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