The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Keeping a Lid on Pandora's Box

With whom the agents of any state colluded in the
murder of its own or a neighbouring state's citizens,
is of secondary importance: the fact that there was
such collusion is the issue at hand, and should be our
overriding concern. - Davy Adams

Davy Adams • 8 December 2004

Might republicans actually be less enthusiastic about a genuine and transparent investigation into all aspects of collusion than they would have us believe?

It could well be the case.

Despite their public stance, in the comparative privacy of recent discussions with the two governments, Sinn Fein seems to have been happy enough to tiptoe around the subject.

In the run up to this week’s agreement-that-didn’t-happen, Sinn Fein elevated to potential deal-breaker its demand for the early release of the men who shot to death Detective Garda Gerry McCabe and critically injured his colleague, Detective Ben O’Sullivan, at Adare, Co. Limerick in 1996.

On its own, there’s nothing remarkable about that. However, it does lead one to wonder why they didn’t attach the same import to the British government’s continued failure to make good on its Weston Park commitment to hold a proper public inquiry into the conspiracy that led to the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

After all, in the public arena, Sinn Fein has been unrelenting in its demand for just such an inquiry.

Yet, unlike their requirement on the McCabe killers, this markedly more palatable issue was never granted the lofty status of potential deal-breaker.

Never mind the government, this calls into question Sinn Fein’s own depth of commitment to a Finucane inquiry. Suspicions are reinforced, when one considers that the nailing-down of clear and acceptable government pledges on public inquiries is now a matter of real urgency.

Sinn Fein and all of the other parties are fully aware that if the government has it’s way, a fully independent public inquiry anywhere in the United Kingdom will very soon be no more than a fond memory of how things once seemed to be.

Thanks largely to “the war on terror” (or, more likely, the excuse it provides), soon there won’t even be a pretence of openness, accountability and transparency on the part of government.

Proposed new legislation, The Inquiries Bill, is currently being pushed through Westminster (with exceptional, if not quite indecent, haste) and is due its final reading by Christmas. It will, amongst other things, give a relevant Minister the power to determine when an inquiry must sit in private and, more disturbing still, to place on the slightest of pretexts, investigative restrictions upon its inquiries. Self-evidently, this will render the term ‘public inquiry’ even more a mere titular appellation than already is the case.

Simply put, very soon government ministers will be able to determine into what areas any inquiry may or may not go, and have the ability to limit the extent of its probing even into matters that have been deemed appropriate (not to mention, determining how much of its findings it can share with the public).

As well as Finucane and the like, such legislation would, for example, allow government to draw a veil of secrecy around the alleged abuse and suspicious deaths of young army recruits at Deepcut training barracks and to suppress any awkward little details concerning its Iraqi adventure that might still make their way onto the radar screen of public concern.

The prospect of this bill becoming law should galvanise everyone who cares in the slightest about government accountability never mind those, like Sinn Fein, who, ostensibly at least, have a particular issue of real concern.

On the face of it, an extensive and forensic public examination of the circumstances surrounding Pat Finucane’s death should hold no fears for republicans.

But then, Sir John Stevens’s investigation into the activities of UDA double-agent Brian Nelson shouldn’t have either: but, ultimately, it proved to be the source of a great deal of republican embarrassment.

The probing of Brian Nelson’s activities led Stevens, via. the Nelson-directed killing of pensioner Francisco Notorantonio, directly to the person whose identity Notorantonio had been sacrificed to protect - Freddie Scappaticci, code-named Stakeknife, the most senior British agent yet uncovered within the IRA.

Genuine inquiries, by their very nature, tend to wander where they will and where they must: the possible fall-out from that approach can never be predicted.

No-one can possibly predict where a full-scale, transparent investigation into all aspects of the killing of Pat Finucane might lead, let alone the possible implications of a similar inquiry into the entire cesspit of collusion.

Conceivably, it might become glaringly obvious within a short space of time, that many senior and influential paramilitaries on both sides colluded with agents of the British and/or Irish state(s) at various times throughout the conflict.

While the Finucane family, the SDLP and a myriad of human rights activists have all held firm to their demand for a solid date and acceptable terms of reference and scope for a public inquiry into all of the circumstances surrounding the murder of Pat Finucane, Sinn Fein has, to put it mildly, become far less strident.

Rather than open Pandora’s Box, a safer bet for them,perhaps, is to let remain imprinted in the public mind, the notion that collusion was, by definition, shadowy figures from British intelligence agencies meeting only with moronic loyalists in the back-seats of cars to plan and direct the murder of innocents.

Originally published in the Irish Times and carried here with permission of the author.





Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

11 December 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Post-Debacle Stress Syndrome
Anthony McIntyre

Keeping the Lid on Pandora's Box
Davy Adams

Paisley's Guide for Penitent Provos
Brian Mór

Talking to Mr. George
Fred A. Wilcox

Dr No Says No, Again; Dublin Wrong to Back Photos
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

A Way Out of the Impasse
Liam O Comain

'Eternal Elves of the West'
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bobby Tohill vs. The Andersonstown News
Liam O Ruairc

Peace Comes Dropping Slow
Brian Lennon

6 December 2004

The Fleece Process
Anthony McIntyre

Padraic Paisley
Anthony McIntyre

Revolutionary Unionism
Dr John Coulter

Official Secrets
Mick Hall

Kilmichael Controversay Continues
Liam O Ruairc

Turkish Man Beaten and Racially Abused by PSNI in front of Witnesses

Iraq is Not the Second World War
Fred A Wilcox

Dancing at the Edge of the Abyss
Karen Lyden Cox



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices