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18 September 1997 Edition

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Ken and the spindoctors

By Mary Nelis

In George Orwell's ``1984'' one of the characters Winston Graham, works in the records department of the ``Ministry of Truth''. His job is to correct the newspapers and books so that they reflect the government's political thinking and values.

I am reminded of this character every time I hear Ken Maginness, the doyen of RTE, who likes to project himself as the moderate voice of the new political thinking of old Unionism. You'll not hear our Ken saying No Surrender, Not an Inch, Hang all Taigs.

No, Ken is the voice that represents the Ministry of Truth, Unionist style 1997.

He is the spokesperson wheeled out by a largely uncritical media to put his particular spin on events which appear to be hostile to the British/Unionist position on the North.

He makes no secret of being in the know; after all he began his political career as a gunman in the UDR, which has had close connections with the British Intelligence Services. The aftermath of the Markethill bomb was no exception. Ken, heading up the posse of ritual condemners, was awarded uninterrupted air space to inform us all that the IRA had done this and Sinn Féin should be expelled from the talks etc etc.

No one in the media sought to explore or even ask Ken if there could be some other group involved. They didn't ask if they all might be jumping to conclusions when there was no evidence to support Republican involvement and the IRA, through a recognised code word, had issued a disclaimer.

But then no one in the media since 1970 sought an explanation or questioned a whole episode of disinformation, lies and leaks, which like Orwell's Ministry of Truth corrected the newspapers on behalf of the Dirty Tricks Brigade of the British Intelligence Services.

In 1990, Thatcher was forced to admit, in the light of disclosures by Fred Holroyd and Colin Wallace, former members of MI6, to the existence of such a campaign as part of Britain's dirty war in Ireland.

Fred Holroyd, the former MI6 officer, was quoted by the Irish News in 1990 as stating ``there were SAS troops on the ground in Northern Ireland the Labour Party didn't even know existed. The Minister of Defence didn't inform Merlyn Rees that these people were doing their dirty tricks and were involved in a number of covert operations, kidnappings, murders, framing people''. Holroyd's most pertinent comment however was that ``the British Intelligence services have people penetrating terrorist organisations, to manipulate these organisations and discredit them and we were doing that among other things''.

The bomb in Markethill has all the hallmarks of a dirty tricks operation. Remember the Silent Valley. The movement towards talks as a means of resolving the conflict and the call by Sinn Féin for all parties to be at the table, seemed to herald a signal for loyalist to being a final putsch.

The bombs in Dublin and Belfast, the murders of Catholics during the so called loyalist ceasefire were largely ignored by Unionist spokespersons and certainly not awarded the same hype as that reserved for operations carried out by the IRA.

What Unionist spokespersons, including Ken, were interrogated about their role in the murders of John Slane, Bernadette Martin, Robert Hamill, James Morgan, Kathleen O'Hagan, Rose Ann Mallon and all the brutal acts carried out in the name of Unionism?

Political spokespersons like Ken Maginness have no crisis of conscience over the continuing slaughter of Catholics, for behind his public denunciations of Sinn Féin, is the implied theat that if Unionists do not get their way, increasing numbers of Catholics will get it in the head.

Ken, like his party colleague, Trimble, can shake hands with the devil, as personified by Billy Wright whose name has been linked to the UVF death squads, who have murdered 42 people since the peace process began.

The British government has never faced up to this threat. The combined Unionist Brigade strutted into Stormont this morning in a manner described by a reporter as ``like the wild bunch''.

One could almost feel that they were glad that Markethill happened. But then they are a wild bunch, who from the inception of this state have bombed, shot, lied, intimidated and threatened anyone who even mildly tried to initiate any changes to it. But no matter how they try to correct the truth, they should recognise that there is new political thinking in Ireland, and even more so in England.

Scotland has cut the umbilical cord. Wales may do so this week. The Irish are looking for the scissors. Now put a spin on that, Ken.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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