27 July 2000 Edition

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Securocrats digging their heels in

By MICHAEL PIERSE

More proof has emerged this week that the securocrats are tightening their grip, or grasping at straws, on British policy in Ireland.

A British Government review group, consisting soley of representatives from the Northern Ireland Office, the Home Office, the Six-County judiciary and the RUC decided, along with Peter Mandelson, that the Diplock non-jury trial system should be retained in the Six-Counties. This coincides with other British legislation intended to remove the right to trial by jury altogether from British law.

The British Government's refusal to repeal the repressive and widely condemned Prevention of Terrorism Act and the introduction of even more draconian `anti-terrorism' legislation early next year, also reveal that the securocrat element in Britain still exercise a vast amount of political influence at the highest levels of power.

Mo Mowlam admitted on Monday night's BBC programme, You Only Live Once, that her role in relation to British Intelligence was far from benign during her tenure as direct ruler in the north. Her admission that she had approved the bugging of a car that was used to transport members of the Sinn Féin leadership during talks last year, was described by party president, Gerry Adams, as a ``hugely serious breach of faith'' after the device was discovered.

Sinn Féin Assembly Member for Soth Derry, John Kelly, called this week for an inquiry into ``such underhand activity''. ``I believe there should be an inquiry into this kind of activity, because the securocrats are a law unto themselves,'' he said.

``The whole incident could have led to the derailing of negotiations and it engendered a degree of mistrust from republicans that had not been there prior to that. We had taken Mo Mowlam as someone we could deal with in a very open and confidential manner.''

A welcome development this week will be the release of all remaining republican prisoners from the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. However, despite it being an unequivocal demand of the Belfast Agreement, doubt still remains over when the 26-County government will release some of those POWs who are still captive in Castlerea.

There have been no ambiguities allowed by Sinn Féin in its negotiations with the Dublin government on this issue, during and after the formulation of the Belfast Agreement. The party made it quite clear that all republican prisoners, without exception, would qualify for release under the spirit and the letter of that agreement, to which the Dublin government have themselves subscribed.

Sinn Féin's position on the killing of Garda McCabe, whose family have raised objections to the releases, has also been clear. The party has stated that the killing was wrong and that there is no attempt to undermine the grief of the McCabe family in this matter. Grief is also felt by republican and nationalist families in the Six Counties at the release of loyalist prisoners, but it would be incorrect to think that anyone has a monopoly on pain. The reality is that the release of political prisoners is an integral part of the Belfast Agreement and that the 26-County government cannot cherry-pick on this matter.

Despite the hullaballoo over the release of republican prisoners this week, there has been little attention paid to the Relatives for Justice campaign to create a forum for establishing truth and reconciliation which involves all of the parties to the conflict, including the British Government.

How sickeningly ironic that while some persist in criticising the release of political prisoners, there is not a whimper from the same sources about the deliberate absence of prosecutions in almost 400 killings carried out directly by the British Army and RUC, and in the many more loyalist murders in which they colluded. In many of these cases the British soldiers who murdered innocent and unarmed civilians were promoted.

Speaking in advance of tomorrow's press conference by Relatives for Justice, group spokesperson Mark Thompson highlighted the hypocrisy of the mass media evasion of their campaign. ``In recent days there has understandably been a concentrated media focus on families who have seen the people responsible for killing their loved ones being released from jail as part of the Good Friday Agreement,'' he said.

``Many people, particularly Peter Mandelson, have expressed on numerous occasions the difficulty faced by these families. We too understand just how difficult this must be for them. However, for those families who lost loved ones at the hands of the state there will be no releases - for there were never any convictions.

``On listening to Peter Mandelson and the unfolding debate around releases on would be forgiven for thinking that the involvement of the British Army and the RUC in this conflict was somewhat benign. And that there were no fatalities or injuries resulting from their actions.

``This attempt to divert focus away from the activities of the state will not work. Ignoring the relatives of state violence, diminishing their loss and excluding their experience while elevating that of others will not work. Peter Mandelson needs to positively engage in a process that provides truth, parity, and which addresses the hurt, pain and grief caused by the state. He needs to face the issue and his government needs to accept that their role in the conflict caused great hurt and left a legacy of suffering. This can begin with an apology.''

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