6 February 1997 Edition

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The report strategy

By Mary Nelis

The North report, set up by Patrick Mayhew to enquire into disputed parades, presented its findings to the British parliament last Thursday.

Last Thursday was the 25th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

In the British House of Commons, John Major was considering the North report and its implications for the continuance of his government in power.

Meanwhile the people of Derry were standing in silent tribute to those murdered by the British army on Bloody Sunday. They were remembering another report, Widgery, which sought to cover up the murder by criminalising the dead.

They have lived through 25 years of tribunals, reports and enquiries set up by British governments into events such as unlawful killings by their army, torture during interrogation by their police, the use of ``assembly line justice'' in their courts and the removal of every vestige of human and civil rights from that minority population which they hoped the Paras would shoot off the streets, once and for all on Bloody Sunday.

The British government strategy is one of tribunals and enquiries to rubber stamp every atrocity carried out by the British state.

In 1968/69, the civil rights movement was beaten off the streets by the RUC and the B Specials, who were also involved in sectarian attacks on Catholic areas of Belfast and Derry. The publicity surrounding the attacks on Catholics in the St Columbs Wells area of Derry prompted the British to set up the Cameron Report. It was conducted, as were most of the reports, by British Lord Justices. Cameron was followed by Scarman, who found that the murders of innocent Catholics by B Specials and the RUC was due to indiscipline and therefore justifiable, though the RUC were found to have used firearms indiscriminately.

After the arrival of British troops there was the Hunt report, which recommended that the B Specials should change their name to the UDR and to prevent further indiscipline, the RUC should be trained in the latest British techniques of riot control.

A senior Scotland Yard police officer, sent over to investigate the incidents, came up against the same conspiracy of silence within the RUC, as did Stalker 16 years later.

After internment and the `five techniques' torture of those arrested, complaints from nationalist and church leaders forced the British to set up the Compton committee enquiry which concluded that wall standings, hooding, continuous nose, deprivation of food and sleep, threats of being thrown out of helicopters, did not constitute torture but was merely ill-treatment. The ensuing Parker committee recommended that although this was unlawful, it should be formally legitimised.

The years 1972-75 witnessed wholesale arrests and harassment. The Emergency Provision Order and the Prevention of Terrorism Act allowed the army, police and judiciary to put into effect the conveyor belt justice system, which resulted in the arrest and convictions of large numbers of young nationalists. Lord Diplock presided over a report into how convictions could be achieved through the courts, while another Lord, Gardiner, recommended the ending of internment.

During the years 1976-80, the British set up two further enquiries into beatings during interrogation. The Shackleton review and the Bennett report found that there was widespread ill treatment of suspects in Castlereagh, Gough Barracks and Strand Road in Derry. Yet, this continued, despite the Amnesty International Report in 1978, which placed the British government in the same category as Central American dictatorships. Among those tortured in Castlereagh during this period, 10 were later to die on hunger strike. But the British were still not finished. The Jellicoe review, the Baker review and the Stalker/Samson inquiry were put in place to legitimse the search for informers, the bribery of suspects and the death squad operations of the RUC/UDR.

The long catalogue of abuse, terror and cover-up by the state has become synonymous with British rule in the north of Ireland and evidence, if it were needed, that the Six County state is sustained only by force and subterfuge.

A generation of young people has grown up since Bloody Sunday. They were on the streets of Derry in their thousands last week. They packed St Mary's Church during the commemoration mass, they stood their ground in the factories, wearing their black ribbons and observing the silence, even when threatened with dismissal by the sectarian bosses, who still cling to the notion of a Protestant state for a Protestant people.

These young people, a risen generation, know that British reports and enquiries headed by British Lords are not worth the paper they are written on.

North, like Widgery, is just another cover-up of the failed policy of a bankrupt government.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1