wondering how Ronnie Flanagan came to believe
hed get away with claiming memory loss about
his role in collusion should recall Mike Jackson
and Bloody Sunday.
man recently retired as Britains top soldier
was second in command of the paras in Rossville
Street,m Derry, in January 1972. He it was who
compiled the notorious and wholly inaccurate shot-list
which provided the basis of the cover-up of mass
murder for 30 years, until exposed at the Saville
may have noted that denying and distorting the
truth about murder hadnt done Jackson any
harm. Nor had Jackson's reputation been diminished
by repeated claims on oath that he couldnt
remember a thing about any of it. Au contraire,
as we say in the Bog. The lying shot-list had
been the launch-pad for his glittering ascent
to the very pinnacle of soldiering.
maybe Ronnie took his inspiration from the political
Reid, ex-Northern Ireland Secretary, now Home
Office boss, was at pains, in the aftermath of
the OLoan Report, to declare his full
confidence in Flanagan as UK Inspector of
Constabulary. (I am tempted to say that the mind
boggles at a man exposed as conniving in police
collusion with murder being employed to monitor
whether tbhe behaviour of other police is up to
the mark. But I fear that my mind is at this stage
un-boggleable when it comes to the British ruling
class and their security forces.)
need for surprise, either, at Reids performance
last week. In May 1998, he was Minister of State
for the Armed Forces when the Daily Mail and other
dregs were whipping up a campaign for the release
of Guardsmen Fisher and Wright, convicted for
the September 1992 murder of Peter McBride, a
young father of two, in north Belfast. Reid refused
repeated requests from the McBride family for
a meeting. But he instantly agreed to meet with
the murderers supporters---and, after meeting
them, issued a public statement expressing concern
at the pairs imprisonment.
months later, Fisher and Wright were released
from Maghaberry by the overrated Mo Mowlam, in
advance of other prisoner releases and outside
the terms of the Belfast Agreement.
the most robust defenders of the release of the
murderers was Geoff Hoon, Minister of Defence
until 2005, now back in the headlines as Minister
for Europe. Last week, he affected scorn for a
committee of the European Parliament which had
"deplored" his failure to cooperate
with its investigation into claims that the CIA
operated secret flights in the EU and had set
up covert prisons on European soil to hold people
convicted of no crime at all.
The MEPs found evidence suggesting that Britain
had tolerated a significant number of "black
flights" and had failed to assist British
citizens abducted by the CIA in other countries.
Their report expressed "serious concern
about 170 stopovers by CIA-operated aircraft at
UK airports, coming from or bound for countries
linked to "extraordinary renditions."
authors of the report were outraged
by the legal opinion of senior Foreign Office
adviser Michael Wood, "according to which,
receiving or possessing information extracted
under torture, as long as there is no direct participation
in the torture, is not prohibited."
Flanagan should, of course, be chased from office
in ignominy for his behaviour as head of the RUC
Special Branch and then as Chief Constable. It
is hard to see how even as discredited a politician
as Reid can allow him to remain much longer.
we should not allow the focus on Flanagan to blind
us to the fact that his behaviour merely repeated
the pattern of the military top brass and of politicians
who lecture the rest of us about the need to put
violence in the past, even as they organise, order,
condone and cover up violence on a scale far beyond
the capability of any outlaw paramilitary organisation.