Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Betrayal of RUC officer shows need for truth process

Murdered RUC officer Sgt Joe Campbell
Murdered RUC officer Sgt Joe Campbell

The murder of Sergeant Joe Campbell in Cushendall in 1977 was a tragic indictment of the unwillingness of senior officers in the RUC to protect one of their own.

The Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire claims that a former Chief Constable and other senior officers probably knew of a threat to kill Sergeant Campbell, and his family believes that he was betrayed by colleagues in the Special Branch for trying to expose collusion.

Further evidence has emerged that senior police officers were warned of the threat, but nothing was done to protect Sergeant Campbell , a conscientious officer who was trying to do his best for his comrades and the entire community. It is truly shocking that a Roman Catholic police officer was betrayed by his own force, at a time when it was extremely brave for any Catholic to join the RUC, and particularly when Joe Campbell was working in the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances.

The Sergeant was an honest policeman who would have played a full part in trying to find a path to peace, if he had been given the chance to do so. Sadly, however, a number of miserable, cowardly criminals inside and outside the RUC took that opportunity from him. The truth about those who shot Joe Campbell may never be fully known, but the history of those dreadful times is now partially written, and the lessons must be learned.

Significantly, the sad story of Sergeant Campbell's murder tells us that we need a full truth process, more than ever, and that all these dark deeds need to be exposed as far as possible in the full light of day.

As a society we are still a long way from facing up to the full implications of what happened, but when the crucial talks on how to deal with the past are reconvened, those involved should remember in their deliberations the story of Sergeant Campbell and thousands of others.

These people were not mere statistics but human beings whose lives were cut short and who left grieving families and friends. The least they deserve is the truth about what happened to them.

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