THE WAY I SEE IT
IMC’S SPIES AND SPINNERS
The International Monitoring Commission has to be congratulated for its economy in fining Sinn Féin and allowing the £120,000 to offset IMC costs.
The IMC is, of course, a totally independent and impartial anti-Sinn Féin body. It demonstrated its independence when it was asked by the British to report two months in advance of its original deadline. No problem.
It demonstrated its independence when it forgot to report on the British government reneging on its responsibility to implement the Belfast Agreement and on the commitments it made were the IRA to take part in a process of putting its arms beyond use.
It demonstrated its independence when it wrote: “All political parties with people elected to public positions, or aspiring to election, must play a full and constructive part in the operation of all criminal justice institutions. This includes working co-operatively with PSNI and active participation in the Policing Board and District Policing Partnerships.”
All talk of acts of completion is a one-way street. The most significant unresolved issue of the entire conflict, the issue of British collusion with unionist paramilitary organisations in which hundreds of people were murdered, is a festering issue bigger than stealing cigarettes or bigger than vigilantism. Of all the deaths associated with allegations of collusion in the North, Pat Finucane’s is the one with potentially the most profound repercussions for the British state.
Sir John Stevens’ heavily censored report into that death recommended that charges be brought against several police and army officers. No-one was ever charged.
Under intense pressure the British government eventually called in Judge Cory from Canada to investigate a number of controversial killings and it promised to act if he recommended inquiries.
Judge Cory did just that.
Before Cory’s report was completed the DPP charged a loyalist with killing Pat Finucane and the British government now says that there can be no inquiry because the case is sub judice. No date has been set for trial. If there is a conviction the likelihood is that appeals to the High Court, the House of Lords and the European Court would last for another fifteen years. In other words, there will never be an inquiry and the issue will be submerged in a so-called Truth and Reconciliation process.
The British government, at the request of Ulster Unionists, set up the IMC last year. The International Decommissioning Body was also set up at the request of the Ulster Unionists, but General John de Chastelain’s report on the IRA’s third and most significant act of decommissioning last October was dismissed by David Trimble. Tony Blair then reneged on his side of the agreement with Sinn Féin in regard to a Bill of Rights, criminal justice reforms and the status of ‘on the run’ republicans.
David Trimble was never comfortable sharing power with Sinn Féin and for some time had wanted to bypass the weighted safety mechanisms in the Belfast Agreement. Under those mechanisms a party could only be punished for being in breach of the Mitchell Principles’ anti-violence pledge of office if there was cross-party support for putting it out of office (that is, if the SDLP voted with the unionists). Instead, Trimble wanted a mechanism outside of the Assembly to facilitate the exclusion of Sinn Féin from government over the continued existence of the IRA. Note ‘existence’, not just alleged IRA activity.
London and Dublin acceded to that request only for Dublin to discover that the British unilaterally amended its powers of scrutiny. In other words, whilst the Dublin representative and the US nominee (a former director of the CIA) are allowed to investigate Irish republicans they are not allowed to investigate alleged unionist or British government breaches of the terms of the Belfast Agreement and its implementation. And who are the British nominees, chosen for their objectivity? The former head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist unit and the unelectable former head of the Alliance Party! And their sources? The securocrats, of course.
Spies and spinners.
Sinn Féin’s rejection of the IMC as being established outside of the terms of the Agreement and as being a sop to unionists has proved correct. Indeed, the IMC’s scrutiny and reporting of loyalist violence has the appearance of an afterthought, despite a relentless sectarian campaign against nationalists, including murder, long pre-dating the Tohill affair.
In that incident PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde immediately declared that it was an attempted IRA kidnapping (of a dissident republican). The IRA denied responsibility. Orde’s precipitousness is in marked contrast to how his force – and unionism generally – understates loyalist violence. And it is those double standards that gall nationalists.
We are told that there can be no investigation of alleged British security involvement in the murder of Pat Finucane because a man has been charged, but British government appointees can carry out an investigation into the alleged abduction of Bobby Tohill, despite four men being charged and it being sub judice.
Next week Sinn Féin faces the withdrawal of the public funding it uses to administer its Stormont offices and service its electorate. It faces further sanctions of the salaries of its Assembly members being withdrawn should they be named by the IMC as being members of the IRA.
All of this might be grist-to-the-mill for unionists opposed to power sharing with Sinn Féin, or for those in the South trying to stem the electoral rise of Sinn Fein. But it does absolutely nothing for the peace process – as the cancellation of next week’s ‘proximity talks’ involving all the parties shows.
Instead, it presents a one-sided picture of the cause of the impasse and allows the British government to evade its responsibility to address the issues of implementing equality, justice and accountable policing as promised in the Belfast Agreement.