Last week’s intervention by the Secretary of State to prevent full disclosure to the inquest of a 15 year old girl quite frankly stopped me in my tracks. I work with families who on a daily basis negotiate the horrors of the British State’s approach to “national security” and the consistent lack of disclosure to inquests. This is not, however, a conflict case. This is a child who was abducted, presumably sexually assaulted and buried in an unknown location.
Arlene Arkinson went missing in August 1994. There is only one suspect in this case, the now deceased child killing monster, Robert Howard.
The ceasefires were not in place at the time of Arlene’s disappearance and there were many still being killed in her home area. Most notably Kathleen O’Hagan, a mother of five young boys and eight months pregnant had been killed in her home in a most sickening case of collusion between the state and loyalism.
Seven days later 15 year old Arlene went missing, 28 miles away.
Following the death of Robert Howard, it became clear that there had been systemic failings by the RUC regarding this man. Not the least of these was the treatment of 15 year old Priscilla Gahan who was seriously raped and assaulted by Howard in Castlederg in 1993. She now points to how the RUC served to treat her as the criminal and minimise the actions of Robert Howard. Journalist Susan McCay has written extensively and comprehensively on this in recent years.
The reputation of the RUC in this matter is further undermined by the attempts of former RUC Special Branch Superintendent Eric Anderson. He tried to sell his notes in the case of Arlene Arkinson to UTV’s Insight for the sum of £250 when they were examining Arlene’s disappearance.
The PSNI and state’s reputation in inquest courts is in tatters. Absolute tatters. They stand accused of systematic delay and deliberate cover up to save the British state’s reputation and to avoid state accountability. Theresa Villiers tried in the most ham fisted and insulting of statements to assuage this by saying that families seeking truth are engaged in promoting a “pernicious counter-narrative”. Few saw this as anything other than a sabre rattling insult to grieving families.
That the same pattern of behaviour has been introduced to the inquest of Arlene Arkinson really delivers one message and one message only. That the state has something to hide. That the something to hide is so totally embarrassing that they are willing to slap a public interest immunity certificate on it.
That they have trotted out former Special Branch officer and Patten beneficiary Alan Maines to defend it only adds to the Orwellian drama.
It also tells us all that the state is treating our courts with contempt and a legitimate arena of cover up. They are not. They have been transformed. Our society need and deserve far better. And our Executive needs to stand collectively and demand that the British state end this contempt for our institutions.