deal that seems to have been cut between the PRM
and the British government over the PIRA volunteers,
described in the media as the On The Runs (OTRs),
highlights the danger of an organization that sees
itself as the harbinger of a more open, equal and
democratic society becoming involved in secret negotiations
with its old enemy.
it is perfectly understandable the PIRA leadership
wants to complete its internal housekeeping after
standing down its volunteers, surely when doing
so it has a responsibility to look at the wider
picture and the affect any such deal will have on
the nationalist community as a whole.
is no doubt in my mind that volunteers who have
outstanding charges against them, or who escaped
from British custody during the 'troubles', should
if they so wish, be allowed to return home without
fear of state prosecution and harassment. Whether
this should come about due to a back door trade
off with the British State is another matter.
the years 1969-97, the law in the north of Ireland
became an arm of counter-insurgency operations as
prescribed by Brigadier Frank Kitson and his ilk,
whether it was internment without trial, the Diplock
Courts, the manipulation of Coroners Courts and
paid perjurers with the system of super grasses.
The British State recognized this fact when they
opened the doors of its jails to release both Republican
and Loyalist inmates at the end of the 'troubles';
thus by so doing they all but admitted that these
men and women were political prisoners, not common
criminals as successive British Governments had
been claiming for the previous thirty odd years.
when on the 9th of November, the 'Northern' Ireland
Secretary of State Peter Hain announced to the British
Parliament the details of the deal for the OTRs
and how the legislation will pan out in practice,
it appears the Brits have either pulled a fast one
or, not for the first time, Republicans have fallen
victim to the sleight of hand of Perfidious Albion.
Hain said, "On-the-runs wanted for offenses
committed before the Good Friday Agreement will
face a two-stage legal process. If they are granted
a certificate allowing them to take part in the
scheme, they will be brought before a special tribunal
which will have the same powers as a Crown court.
They will, however, be exempt from arrest, questioning
and remand in relation to the offenses. There will
be no jury sitting at the tribunals. In the event
of a conviction, the person will be eligible to
receive a license guaranteeing that he or she will
not be jailed. The same amnesty applies to members
of the security forces wanted for crimes committed
on civilians before the Good Friday Agreement."
are two major problems here, one for Republicans
and a second for those within the wider community
who have suffered at the hands of the British security
forces. If OTR Republicans are to put themselves
through this process and gain immunity from imprisonment,
they first must recognize the legality of the northern
state-let's judicial process, something they and
their comrades have always refused to do down the
years. Indeed in the past, unless special dispensation
was given by the PIRA leadership, it was a disciplinary
offense for volunteers to recognize the British
legal system in Ireland. Many Republicans, whilst
accepting the ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement
still believe to do so is a step too far, the more
so if one is expected to have a begging bowl in
one's hand when doing so.
the wider Nationalist community there is an added
problem with what Mr Hain announced and it is this.
It all but gives those members of the British Security
Services, RUC Special Branch and Army Intel, who
were party to grievous crimes in collusion with
Loyalist and Republican Paramilitaries and their
political masters, amnesty from their criminal acts.
Thus, those who were behind the murder of Pat Finucane,
the FRU handlers of Stakenife and those who allegedly
helped organize the bombing of Dublin and Monaghan
and countless other acts of State collusion in criminality
will never be punished.
not only will the victims and their relations of
any State collusion in criminality never recieve
closure, let alone justice, but also lessons will
not be learned by the State. Indeed, it is therefore
hardly surprising that talk is already emerging
from Iraq of British Army Intel and the Security
Services acting in collusion with Iraqi terrorist
groups; when those who have committed such acts
in Ireland have been guaranteed a soft landing by
the State if their crimes come to light...
Fein leaders may well claim such amnesties are par
for the course in conflict resolutions situations
and point to South Africa as an example. But to
compare the out-come of the conflict in SA with
the north of Ireland today is nonsensical; for in
South Africa there was a changing of the guard.
every level of the Apartheid State Apparatus, there
was a transfer of power. This was especially true
across the upper echelons of the state's machine;
whether it were in the Judiciary, the Chief of Staff
of the South African Armed Forces, heads of the
Security Services and Police or the Parliamentary
Committees that had oversight over these bodies.
SA, it was out with the old order and in with the
new, whilst in the north of Ireland the British
State still reigns supreme. The same judges sit
on the bench and the same is true of much of the
security services, police force and army personal.
True, these days they may all talk the language
of social inclusion but bar the window dressing,
it is the same old state machine.
Republicans wish to have any say within this state-let
they will have to recognize this fact and if they
do so, those lower down the PRM food chain will
have to doff their caps accordingly, if they wish
to spend their old age in the home-towns from whence