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The real truth may be another casualty of this massacre

By Suzanne Breen

Published 26/01/2016

It's a deeply disturbing and unfortunately all-too-familiar claim. The IRA's north Belfast commander in 1993 was an informer who passed his handlers information that potentially could have prevented the Shankill bombing.

The very idea that seven innocent men and women and two young schoolgirls were allowed to die is nauseating.

As Michelle Williamson, whose beloved parents Gillian and George were killed in the blast, said last night: "It makes me sick to the stomach to think that mum and dad are lying in their graves and their deaths, along with the others, could have been prevented."

It must now be asked if the intelligence services put their agent before civilian lives, or if they were playing a cynical political game knowing an atrocity would strengthen the hand of those who wanted peace.

Yet we mustn't let the IRA off the hook either.

The Provos learned this information after decoding encrypted documents stolen in the 2002 Castlereagh break-in.

Yes, that's the break-in Sinn Fein insisted the IRA didn't do and said was a securocrat plot to damage it.

The IRA has sat on this information for up to 14 years. It certainly didn't rush to the bereaved families with disclosure.

It must be asked why the Provos have chosen to release it now.

There's some speculation that it's been leaked by a prominent north Belfast republican who fell out with the leadership following the murder of Gerard 'Jock' Davison last year.

Whatever the case, the IRA will employ the material in its endless battle for position with the British over the past. This document can be used to help lessen IRA culpability for the Shankill bomb.

The focus is now falling on what the security forces did and didn't do to prevent the atrocity.

The State, as the upholder of the rule of law, must be held to far higher standards than any paramilitary groups.

If the police tipped off Johnny Adair and the UDA that a bomb attack was imminent, but left Shankill shoppers to be slaughtered, that would be clear, unequivocal State-sponsored murder.

Yet the IRA still carries prime responsibility for the Shankill bomb regardless of whether one police agent was involved or not. The attack was planned not by a single individual, but at Belfast Brigade leadership level, and approved by the Army Council on which senior Sinn Fein politicians sat.

Both the Shinners and the State have many questions to answer about the dirty war - and the truth doesn't seem to be on either side's agenda.

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