Three weeks ago I drove to Belfast City Airport to pick up Mark Thompson and Clara Reilly from Relatives for Justice and Eugene and Mary Heenan, after they had spent 12 hours in London. They had gone from their homes in West Belfast to Whitehall to deliver legal writs. One to the Minstry of Defence and one to Brigadier Sir Frank Kitson. The writs place responsibility for the 1972 killing of Paddy Heenan at the door of the people who founded, funded and ran collusive death squads in Ireland.
43 years after her husband’s murder by UDA member Albert ‘Ginger’ Baker, Mary Heenan seeks responsibility from those who pulled the strings and wrote the handbooks. What she is doing is audacious and makes legal history.
The following week families affected by the Glennane gang in mid-Ulster, began a legal challenge to seek a thematic report on collusion that had been written and then stopped and hidden by the HET and then ACC Drew Harris.
Last week Geraldine Finucane began a judicial review of the British government reneging on their inter-governmental commitment to hold a public inquiry into the murder of her husband by state agents. The British Government sent their top QC to defend the indefensible. In the course of the proceedings the judge asked if this Queens Counsel would consider the state colluding in the murder of a lawyer to be a grave crime. The British QC answered “I’m not sure it is”.
Last Tuesday night BBC Spotlight screened a devastating programme, drawing on evidence from the inquest into Roseann Mallon, on the nefarious activities of the RUC’s WERC. Secretly WERC was an integral part of the apparatus of collusion. Kathryn Johnston spoke of her father’s employers, the RUC, allowing her father’s death in order to conceal the identity of a Special Branch agent.
Loyalism was initiated, directed, armed and controlled. Targets were chosen and murders were allowed to proceed unhindered. Lives were taken and destroyed.
It was not a policing management malfunction, or a bad apples issue, it was a military policy and it was about defeating the IRA. Many people unconnected with republican activity were also targeted as the campaign of fear was essential to isolating republicans and thereby diminishing their capacity to operate.
All kinds of propaganda was used to give cover to the policy and also to perpetuate a version of the conflict that suited British military strategy. The lie of ‘tit for tat’ or ‘sectarian troubles’ fed this propaganda.
It has been three extraordinary weeks of legal actions and programming that has laid bare the outworkings of collusion from 1972 until the very end of our conflict. We have witnessed wives, husbands, sons and daughters use human rights law and the courts to uncover these egregious violations.
But where have been the howls of indignation for the rights of victims? Where are the emergency debates in Leinster House or Stormont? Or the screaming headlines demanding accountability?
Along with the policy of collusion, political and media hypocrisy stands exposed over the past three weeks.