Police's call to exonerate MI5 over Kincora abuse scandal without further ado disturbing
Not only has the Chief Constable questions to answer, but probe into boys’ home must be reopened, insists Nelson McCausland
Last week the inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland finished taking evidence and over the next six months Sir Anthony Hart and his two colleagues will write their report.
They started taking evidence in January 2014 and over the past two years they have heard much harrowing evidence of the physical, mental and sexual abuse that was suffered over many years at 20 residential homes and other institutions.
The 15th and final module of the inquiry started on May 31 — day 204 of the inquiry — and ended on July 8.
That final module dealt with the Bawnmore Children’s Home in Newtownabbey and the infamous Kincora Boys’ Home in east Belfast, but the focus was particularly on Kincora.
That final module of the public evidence sessions passed almost unnoticed in the midst of a constant flood of news about Brexit, political turmoil in both the Conservative and Labour parties, and the murder of police officers in America.
There were reports in the newspapers and other media, but there was no in-depth analysis.
The record of the proceedings is already on the internet (at www.hiainquiry.org) and while most of it deals with information that was already in the public domain, some additional information has been provided.
However, it is already clear that a full re-investigation of Kincora is still required.
This relates to events which happened more than 40 years ago and some of the victims, who were then teenagers, are still alive.
However, during the inquiry the chairman referred to “people no longer sadly with us” and the fact is, with every year that passes, the grave robs us of more of those who might be able to shed light on what did (or did not) happen at Kincora.
That is especially important, because Kincora was different from the other institutions. In all of them, there were perpetrators and victims, but only in the case of Kincora has it been alleged that MI5 was somehow involved.
Several potential witnesses declined to appear before the inquiry, one of them former MI5 officer Brian Gemmell.
He was born in Glasgow in 1950 and today he is a Christian preacher and Bible teacher, but back in the early-1970s he was a young intelligence officer working in Northern Ireland. He eventually left Northern Ireland in 1976 with the rank of captain.
Gemmell has already spoken about his knowledge of Kincora and he is a very credible and compelling witness.
His reason for declining to appear is that the current inquiry does not have sufficient powers and that Kincora should be considered under a high-powered UK-wide inquiry.
He became aware of allegations about the abuse of boys in the home and knew that one of his intelligence officers had driven a “civilian” from Army headquarters to Kincora on several occasions.
He raised his concerns about Kincora with a superior officer, but it seems that MI5 was not interested in pursuing the matter, or indeed asking anyone else to pursue the matter.
Of course, we have to remember the context of the times and the pressures on the police and the Army.
Throughout the 1970s, there was a bloody terrorist war and, day after day, the police were faced with more murders and atrocities.
Some 480 people were killed in 1972, and in some other years the total was almost 300.
Addressing the inquiry, Mark Robinson for the PSNI called on it to dismiss the allegations.
“I would invite the panel to strike (the allegations) down,” he said.
“They serve no further purpose.
“It will dispel the sordid headlines that have reached the public and fuelled this ongoing episode.”
I find that disturbing and I intend — as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board — to ask the Chief Constable about it.
We hear much about “the past”, and this is one aspect of “the past” that must not be allowed to be buried or rewritten.