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Scapegoating of RUC since 1998 as brutal and collusive anti-Catholic force shameful

Dublin and nationalists have swallowed IRA lie designed to excuse its murder campaign, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

The Irish Republic has much to be ashamed about in its attitude to the hell the Provisional IRA unleashed on Northern Ireland, which has spread south in the modified form of gang warfare, corruption and the erosion of democracy.

I am constantly amazed at the staggering ignorance shown by most sections of southern Irish society, including politicians and the media.

But though few publicly endorse political violence post-1923, many vote for the Sinn Fein party - even IRA convicts like Dessie Ellis and Martin Ferris - and have no problem with Mary Lou McDonald trekking north to eulogise brutal terrorists like the late Martin McGuinnness and Bobby Storey.

If they know, do they care that IRA veterans in Belfast still direct party strategy?

What is worse than the ignorance is the extent to which the south seems anxious to believe the worst of unionists and the best even of men of violence.

But then nationalists, as we know, are brilliant propagandists, and unionists are absolutely not.

Why else would terrorists have found a safe haven in the Republic? Despite hundreds of murders having a cross-border dimension, between 1969 and 1998 only eight out of 113 United Kingdom extradition requests were successful?

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Which is why I have been delighted with essays gathered by Brian Barton and Patrick Jay Roach in The Northern Ireland Question, a book that looks at received wisdom with a sceptical eye and a reliance on hard evidence.

William Matchett, a former detective inspector in RUC Special Branch, author of Secret Victory: The Intelligence War That Beat The IRA and a senior researcher at the Edward M Kennedy Institute for Conflict Prevention in Maynooth University, takes what he describes as "a practitioner's perspective" in his invaluable analysis of the security response to the brutal IRA insurgency, which in turn provoked, often deliberately, an equally brutal loyalist terrorist reaction.

There are three phases. 'Reaction' (1969-75) is a period of tumult, confusion and demoralisation. In the first two years alone 16 unarmed police were murdered by the IRA in Catholic neighbourhoods.

During 'Adjust' (1976-82), a revitalised investigation-led RUC began taking back control of IRA areas with the support of Roy Mason, a Secretary of State terrorists hated. But when he had gone, with the help of John Hume and therefore Irish Governments' antipathy to the RUC, and naive human rights organisations, a conspiracy of Provos and loyalists succeeded in having Crime Squads and the supergrass system "poleaxed by propaganda".

The 'Mature' phase (1982-98) of intelligence-led policing prevented more than 80% of all terrorist attacks, but controversial events led to damaging investigations by senior English policemen who had no knowledge of "the exceptional legal (and indeed moral) complexities peculiar to the sustained operation of an informer placed deep within a terrorist organisation".

Since 1998 the RUC has been retrospectively put through the "scapegoat phase" of "squalid deals, lawfare and rewrite" - of which successive British Governments should be, but won't be, mortified. So too should be Irish Governments and nationalists in general for swallowing the big Provo lies about collusion and "dirty war" designed to legitimise their evil and futile murder campaign.

Fair-minded people should consider some questions posed by Dr Matchett about common misconceptions.

If the RUC was anti-Catholic, how come the murder clearance rate for Catholics killed was almost double that for Protestants?

If security was brutal, how does this explain a 99% arrest rate of terrorists, or three times more security forces killed than insurgents? Or a Catholic population in the Troubles that increased from 35% to 43.5%?

And if the internal security solution and its normalisation character was not restrained or human rights compliant enough for nationalist leaders and so-called human rights groups, what 'human rights' compliant security solution have they in mind consistent with the necessity of an expected counter-insurgency?

If insurgents were defenders, why did they commit the majority of the killings, execute defenceless prisoners and kill twice as many Catholics as the security forces?

And if the PIRA were 'peacemakers' and all it took to end the Troubles was to talk to them, why did that not happen in 1972 when they talked to William Whitelaw or in 1974/75 with Merlyn Rees and why the long war strategy?"

Maybe journalists might ask the Sinn Fein leadership for answers.

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