by Ken Keable
A TV audience-ratings analyst recently reported that when news about Northern Ireland comes on-screen, viewers in Britain tend to switch channels. This situation, which the mainstream media themselves have created by their complicity in British colonial rule, provides news editors with the perfect excuse to continue covering up Britain's crimes.
The result is that the British state is getting away with murder, the Blair government actively covers up these crimes, and so inured is the public to the whole mess that even when some of the information gets into the mainstream media, hardly anyone in Britain bats an eyelid.
Over the years there has been a build-up of evidence that the British state, through its army, spooks and sectarian colonial police force, and with the knowledge of senior politicians, has had a deeply collaborative relationship with loyalist paramilitaries, supplying them with arms, intelligence and protection.
Yet this flow of information, which should long ago have become a national scandal, has met with almost complete silence in Britain, and the left has failed miserably to press home its advantage. The opportunity to discredit British colonialism and the state institutions responsible, and all the guilty politicians, Labour and Tory, has not been seized.
Part of the reason is the illusion that "it couldn't happen here". But Northern Ireland is here, though we behave as if it's on Planet Zog. What the state can do there it can do in England, Scotland and Wales, if it feels sufficiently threatened.
The latest indictment comes in a 115-page report of 6 November 2006, from an international, independent panel of experts, commissioned by the hard-working Pat Finucane Centre, Derry. It is available, along with lots of other useful information, on HYPERLINK http://www.patfinucanecentre.org
The panel found evidence of state collusion in 24 loyalist attacks involving 74 murders in 1972-77. Four of the attacks were in the Republic of Ireland, including the street bombings in Dublin and Monaghan on 17 May 1974, which occurred during the gun-enforced lockout organised by the so-called Ulster Workers' Council. Thirty-four innocent passers-by were killed in one day, to intimidate the Irish people.
The report says:
"Documentary, testimonial and ballistics evidence suggests that the violent extremists with whom RUC officers and agents colluded and even overlapped, gained much of their arms and ammunition, as well as training, information and personnel, from the RUC and UDR."
The UDR was a locally-recruited, overwhelmingly Protestant regiment of the British Army which was later renamed the Royal Irish Regiment, and is now being disbanded with full honours. The RUC has since been reformed, to a limited extent, in response to the report of the international Patten Commission on policing, established under the Good Friday agreement. As part of this make-over it has been renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The report goes on to say:
"Credible evidence indicates that superiors of violent extremist officers and agents, at least within the RUC, were aware of their sectarian crimes, yet failed to act to prevent, investigate or punish them. On the contrary, they allegedly made statements that appeared to condone participation in these crimes."
It also notes that:
"As early as 1973, senior officials of the United Kingdom were put on notice of the danger - and indeed some of the facts - of sectarian violence by UDR soldiers using stolen UDR weapons and ammunition, and supported by UDR training and information. At least by 1975 senior officials were also informed that some RUC police officers were 'very close' to extremist paramilitaries." "…The evidence that police and military officers of the State were involved in the murders, and that some of their superiors knew of this but failed to take appropriate action, raises a further question: How high up the chain of command in the police, army and intelligence agencies of the British State, did specific knowledge and acquiescence in sectarian crimes go?"
The credentials of the four panellists are so impeccable that I can't see how they can be challenged on grounds of left-wing or anti-British bias, professional qualifications or experience.
Douglas Cassel, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, who headed the panel, said:
"Personally, I was shocked. The United Kingdom has a reputation around the world as one of the leading democracies…To come and find that British police and soldiers were involved in murdering people and that this was known by their police commanders and superiors, and that there was information that should have put people at the level of prime minister on notice, is something that I would not have imagined in my wildest dreams."
Ah, but it was all a long time ago. Yet loyalist paramilitaries are still operating, and the state, which knows exactly who they are through its agents among them, continues to allow it; and scarcely anyone says that all this should disqualify Peter Hain from becoming Deputy Prime Minister.
The above article was originally published in the ISLIP newsletter
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Copyright © 2006 Ken Keable