Belfast Telegraph

Collusion: State will never tell truth about its murder machine in Northern Ireland

By Eamonn McCann

Will we ever be able to put talk about dealing with the past behind us? Monday night's RTE Prime Time investigation into collusion and worse between loyalist paramilitaries and elements of the security forces suggested that we are now embarked on another twirl around the mulberry bush, with little grounds for optimism that, this time, we will arrive at any better place.

Reporter John Ware has been one of the most assiduous analysts of the interplay between killer cops, Army officers with a belief that they had licence to kill and sectarian cutthroats with a furious hatred of Catholics. Thirteen years ago he presented A Licence To Murder, a two-part Panorama investigation into collusion. At its centre lay an allegation that MI5, the Force Research Unit (FRU) and members of the RUC Special Branch had prompted and protected the UDA in a string of murders, including the murder of Pat Finucane.

It was the same dismaying story with added detail and chilling on-screen confirmation which RTE narrated on Monday night. In the South, particularly, the programme stirred up another flurry of interest in the dirty war which has left the North disfigured. The fact that the programme was largely a rerun testifies to how little progress there has been in the interim.

One major reason we are no further forward is that the British security, military and police forces have set their faces against the truth and have been supported by successive Governments in their concealment of crimes up to and including murder. Indeed, scores of murders.

How likely is it that this will change, that the Home Office, for example (notionally in charge of MI5) is going to come clean about the security service's role - and the rationale for its role - over the past 40 years?

At the time of Ware's previous investigation there had already been three separate inquiries into collusion by Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir John Stevens. He had eventually concluded that collusion had been "widespread". Ware reported at that time that MI5 had known "virtually everything" about the killings brought about by collusion.

In the previous year, 2001, Tony Blair had promised the Finucane family a public inquiry. But four years later, in 2005, after Stevens had put MI5 in the frame, the then Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy announced not a public inquiry, but, possibly, an investigation under the Inquiries Act, then making its way through parliament.

The new measure gave ministers authority to rule out evidence deemed inimical to national security and more generally instructed inquiries to "take into account the public interest, including the requirements of national security". Murphy's offer was angrily rejected by the Finucane family.

Six years further on, in 2011, David Cameron told the Finucanes at Downing Street that the public inquiry promised by Blair remained off the table. Asked why, he replied: "Because there are people all around this place who won't let it happen."

Barrister Sir Desmond da Silva published the results of the inquiry commissioned by Cameron in 2012. In the Commons Cameron accepted that there had been "frankly shocking levels of State collusion". Speaking to a hushed House, he instanced the involvement of the FRU and the RUC Special Branch and apologised to the Finucanes.

But - and here is the key point - Cameron made no mention at all of MI5. MI5 had disappeared, leaving not a trace.

When we put this together with Cameron's reference the previous year to "people all around this place" with the capacity to set a Prime Minister's promise aside, we have a clear indication of whose deeds and misdeeds continue to be hidden behind the facade of national security.

The secret state is the main factor ensuring that much of our past will remain shrouded in darkness. Why should the Provos, or equivalent loyalist groups, spell out what they did and why to any "truth recovery" body when the Government systematically works to prevent the recovery of the truth about the role of its own agents?

It is relevant to mention, too, that the Cameron Government is currently trying to push through measures to give MI5 and other intelligence agencies even more power over people while further reducing the notion of accountability towards nothingness.

History suggests that the only circumstances in which the full truth of a State's nefarious activity can be brought into the open occur when the State apparatus is dismantled upon the overthrow of the regime. The truth about collusion between Gaddafi and the CIA and MI6 came to light only after government buildings in Tripoli had been stormed and the filing cabinets ripped open. There's little sign of anything like that here, yet.

Further reading

British security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries was endemic, Irish parliament told

Bombshell documentary uncovers Government collusion with loyalist paramilitaries

Britain's Secret Terror Deals: 'Truly disturbing' BBC Panorama allegations of collusion must be fully investigated, says Amnesty International 

The murky world of collusion offers no clear-cut answers

'Nine pointers' to murder collusion

State will never tell truth about its murder machine in Northern Ireland

UDR 'would have aided loyalists in event of civil war', says former RUC officer

Truly terrible vista of collusion

The PSNI vault: It's our Pandora's box on the Troubles

UVF 'wanted to unleash civil war' with Dublin and Monaghan bombings

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton: I want to hand over 'vault' of secret police files on troubles murders

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