Irish Times: A monthly round-up

Following an eventful couple of weeks in Northern Ireland, our Political Editor, Omayr Ghani, provides a round-up of events in this month's 'Irish Times' column.

Irish Times, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Wednesday, September 22, 2010 19:26 - 1 Comment

By Omayr Ghani

MI5 in trouble, again

Following a long-running entrapment case, mentioned in the Ceasefire article on the Pakistani cricket scandal, in which suspected Real IRA volunteer Desmond Kearns attempted to buy large quantities of arms and explosives from a freelance agent working for the MI5 under the name “Amir,” legal action has been launched against the government by the agent who is attempting to sue for over £600,000. “Amir” claims he had been promised by the MI5 that the intelligence he gathered would not be used in court and he would not be used as a witness; evidence was, however used in court and the agent was told that if he did not take the stand he would be imprisoned for contempt of court.

As a result of this “Amir,” who has worked as an undercover agent for the majority of his professional career was exposed and will most probably never be able to work again. To add insult to injury the evidence against Desmond Kearns, gathered between 2004 and 2006, was eventually deemed inadmissible due to the use of entrapment. A source close to case told a Sunday newspaper that “Amir” has been treated in a “very shoddy” manner and that “People are alive today because of the risk Amir has taken. The nation owes him a debt of gratitude. Agents like Amir are never meant to end up in court giving evidence.” Leading human rights law firm Bindmans are fighting this apparently unprecedented case.

The Director-General of MI5, Jonathan Evans, meanwhile, stated in a speech on Thursday that the threat from physical-force republican groups such as the Real IRA is “real and increasing” and echoed the analysis of such groups by conceding that Britain’s domestic intelligence service had not given “insufficient weight to the pattern of history over the last hundred years which shows that whenever the main body of Irish republicanism has reached a political accommodation and rejoined constitutional politics, a more hardline, rejectionist group would fragment off it and continue with the so-called ‘armed struggle’.”

Real IRA questioned

Two days earlier the Real IRA gave an interview to the Guardian in the form of typed answers stored on a USB stick wrapped in a surgical glove; recovered by the newspaper from behind a toilet. The interview was covered by the Irish editor of the Observer and former member the Official IRA-linked Sinn Fein: The Workers’ Party (SFWP), Henry McDonald who described the Real IRA man that oversaw the exchange as strikingly “articulate, thoughtful and politically tuned in..”

Interestingly, in the interview itself the republican group strayed from its usual militarist message of national self-determination and stated, in what could be construed as a threat to the financial sector, that the “role of bankers and the institutions they serve in financing Britain’s colonial and capitalist system has not gone unnoticed… Most people can see the picture: the bankers grease the politicians’ palms, the politicians bail out the bankers with public funds, the bankers pay themselves fat bonuses and loan the money back to the public with interest. It’s essentially a crime spree that benefits a social elite at the expense of many millions of victims.” Whilst this is the first time the Real IRA have employed such firmly left-wing rhetoric these statements can be seen the latest manifestation of a socialist tendecy that has always existed within physical force republicanism and indeed national liberation movements generally, though they have been largely been unfavourably compared, by the four papers that have covered the story, as “Baader Meinhoff” like, ignoring the gulf in armed capability of the Real IRA and the Red Army Faction.

The rest of the media including the BBC have, on the other hand, have refused to comment on the story and some have even attacked Henry McDonald for doing so in the first place leading McDonald to opine that this, and similar cases, is due to a Thatcherite fear of the “oxygen of publicity” being given to anyone who opposes, even peacefully, who opposes the historic compromises of the Good Friday and St. Andrews’ Agreements resulting in anyone who does so being “shut out from the debate or censored out of existence” resulting in an “alarming” amount of “self-censorship” in relation to Northern Irish affairs in Great Britain. This self-censorship has been acknowledged by many of the most prolific writers on Irish affairs inluding Ed Moloney, Suzzane Breen and Liam O’Ruairc who desribed it as “a prime example of what Noam Chomsky would call the ‘Manufacturing of consent.’” Dissapointingly, however, McDonald puts this all down to a “well meaning” desire to “protect the amazing gains of the Irish peace process” rather than any self-interest the mainstream media may have in preserving its own narrative of the inherent irrationality and disparate nature of all opposition to the status quo that can be seen in both its domestic coverage as well as its reporting of events that occur far beyond the Irish Sea.

Keeping the (Loyalist) house in order

Whilst statements of those opposed to the new dispensation in, or continuing British presence in, Northern Ireland are often ignored their violent actions of a fringe minority of their number are anything but; however the reverse is true of those who have bought in to, or support, the new state of affairs.

This could be seen in the mainstream media’s lack of coverage of the publication last Wednesday of the “emergency” Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report into the loyalist UVF killing of its former comrade Bobby Moffet in broad daylight and on a busy street on 28 May 2010. The UVF like many other loyalist deathsquads (of which they are the largest and most deadly having killed over 500 people; overwhelmingly civillians) have a long, and well documented history of collusion with the British State and went on “ceasefire” shortly after the Provisional IRA’s first ceasefire of 1994, and declared its support for the “peace process” right up until the mid-noughties however it continued to terrorise its own loyalist communities in what the British Government overlooked, in former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo-Mowlam words, as “house-keeping.”

What makes this recent murder more shocking however is that not only did it happen in broad daylight but that it was committed by UVF gunmen less than a year after the alleged decommissioning all their weapons. The IMC report also found that, contrary to media reports at the time of the action being committed out by rogue members, the murder was sanctioned by the leadership of the UVF in order to “send a message to the [loyalist] community” that “this [their] authority” is “not to be challenged.” The ramifications of the first armed murder by any paramilitary group that had gone through internationally verified decommissioning has so far been unreflected upon in the British Press.

Billy Wright murder inquiry: Deliberate Malpractice

On the same day as the RIRA interview an inquiry into the 1997 murder of the loyalist Billy Wright (who had also fallen out of favour with his former comrades in the UVF) in Maze prison by the republican paramilitary group, the INLA, was also published. Billy Wright had proven unresponsive to the peace process and had also led a prison riot months before his death in protest at prison conditions.

This background and the fact that his killers had managed to cut a hole in the fence leading to their roof undetected; were not locked in their cells the night before Wright was shot dead and CCTV cameras tracking their movements weren’t operating at the time of the killing led to widespread suspicions the intellegence services colluded in the act (the only such allegation of republican collusion) in order to eliminate a man they saw as an obstacle to peace process. The report put these three failings down to negligence not conspiracy yet offered no explanation into how weapons got into the cell however it did suggest the Prison Service undergo a root-and-branch reform (an idea that has already been dismissed by the devolved Justice Minister) as well as criticizing the MI5 and supposedly reformed PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) for failing to provide a list of agents it had within the INLA to the inquiry.

Northern Irish politicians from the hardline unionist DUP to the moderate-nationalist SDLP have variously described the facts revealed in the report as “stretching co-incidents beyond breaking point” and ammounting to “deliberate malpractice” by the authorities whilst the fact that collusion was ruled out by the inquiry has been reported at face value by most commentators. Like the Bloody Sunday inquiry its cost (this time £30m) was often given and repeated by the media to insinsuate that great lengths had been given to ensure the victims families receive the truth and dicourage future “wasteful” inquiries, however the bulk of the cost of the inquiries were made up by the security services requesting judicial reviews of every statement made, such costs can easily be avoided by a blocking such powers as well as by declassifying all documents relating to the Troubles that we, in whose name the British state acted, have a right to access.

Omayr Ghani is Ceasefire‘s Political Editor.

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Aspects of the peace process.. « The Cedar Lounge Revolution
Sep 23, 2010 7:40

[…] 23, 2010 Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left. trackback Interesting overview from across the water here on the Peace Process on the always readable CEASEFIRE. Possibly related […]

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