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Sinn Féin favours process of truth recovery - British have never acknowledged their collusion

23 March, 2005


Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on the Peace Process, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD today said, "No-one who has seriously and honestly studied this conflict of the past 36 years doubts that there was systematic collusion between British forces and loyalist paramilitaries."

Deputy Ó Caoláin was speaking during a debate in the Dáil today on a motion proposing a Tribunal of Inquiry into allegations of Garda collusion in the fatal killings of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Robert Buchanan in 1989.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Sinn Féin does not oppose this motion. We are in favour of a process of truth recovery. The tragic loss of all those who died in the political conflict on this island should be acknowledged and remembered. The grief of their relatives and friends needs to be acknowledged also.

"The British government has never acknowledged its role in the armed conflict in our country. In particular, it has never admitted its use of collusion throughout the conflict since 1969. No-one who has seriously and honestly studied this conflict of the past 36 years doubts that there was systematic collusion between British forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

"There has been very little attention given to the most recent report of the Oireachtas Committee established on foot of the Barron Report. The Committee severely reprimands the British Prime Minister for his refusal to establish an inquiry, as called for by this Oireachtas, into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It goes further and states that his action is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. The British Secretary of State, the Northern Ireland Office and the PSNI refused to co-operate in any meaningful way with the Barron investigation itself or with the work of the Oireachtas Committee.

"Here we have the Oireachtas today establishing a full-blown public inquiry into the alleged collusion of a member of the Garda Síochána in the killing of senior RUC officers Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan in 1989. Yet we have no public inquiry established on the murder of Pat Finucane. And, even more outrageously, we have had no public inquiry in either jurisdiction into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of nearly 31 years ago, or into any of the incidents in which at least 47 people died in the 26 Counties, killed as a result of collusion or directly by British forces.

"There should be no hierarchy of victims and in all of this our focus should be on rebuilding the peace process so that never again will any person die as a result of armed political conflict in our country." ENDS

Full text of speech follows...

Sinn Féin does not oppose this motion. We are in favour of a process of truth recovery. The tragic loss of all those who died in the political conflict on this island should be acknowledged and remembered. The grief of their relatives and friends needs to be acknowledged also. Over 3,500 people died in the conflict. They were men, women and children. They were civilians and combatants. They were members of all the armed groups, both state and non-state. All armed forces involved in the conflict inflicted death and injury. They need to acknowledge that. Some have done so. Others have not.

The British government has never acknowledged its role in the armed conflict in our country. In particular, it has never admitted its use of collusion throughout the conflict since 1969.

No-one who has seriously and honestly studied this conflict of the past 36 years doubts that there was systematic collusion between British forces and loyalist paramilitaries. The most murderous loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association, which operated under the cover-name of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, was co-founded in 1971 by Charles Harding Smith, a self-confessed British intelligence agent. The British Army's Military Reaction Force was established by Brigadier Frank Kitson, the leading counter-insurgency officer, to co-ordinate the British military and the loyalist death squads. Throughout the conflict British forces were guided by the British Army's training manual Land Operations, Volume III -- Counter-Insurgency Options, which states its role as:

"Liaison with, and organisation, training and control of, friendly guerrilla forces operating against the common enemy."

That is the basis of collusion. It is not ancient history. It is relevant right up to the present day. The British government has brought in a piece of legislation called the Inquiries Bill which is designed to prevent any realistic inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane or that of any other victim of collusion between its forces and loyalist death squads. That legislation will give the power to a British minister to order an inquiry to be held behind closed doors. Judge Peter Cory, who recommended the inquiry being established today, has severely criticised this legislation.

He has gone as far as to advise his colleague judges in Canada not to participate in any inquiry under such legislation. And of course British ministers and the British military will still have the controlling hand when it comes to the release of information. We have seen how they have used that power.

There has been very little attention given to the most recent report of the Oireachtas Committee established on foot of the Barron Report. The Committee severely reprimands the British Prime Minister for his refusal to establish an inquiry, as called for by this Oireachtas, into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It goes further and states that his action is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. The British Secretary of State, the Northern Ireland Office and the PSNI refused to co-operate in any meaningful way with the Barron investigation itself or with the work of the Oireachtas Committee.

So what is the situation now? Here we have the Oireachtas today establishing a full-blown public inquiry into the alleged collusion of a member of the Garda Síochána in the killing of senior RUC officers Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan in 1989. Yet we have no public inquiry established on the murder of Pat Finucane. And, even more outrageously, we have had no public inquiry in either jurisdiction into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of nearly 31 years ago, or into any of the incidents in which at least 47 people died in the 26 Counties, killed as a result of collusion or directly by British forces.

There has been an attempt by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, by his fellow-unionists and by sections of the media to equate the alleged collusion of a Garda in the killing of these two RUC officers with the widespread and systematic collusion between British forces, including the RUC, and the loyalist paramilitaries. This is not done out of any desire for truth or justice. It is presented as a debating point and as an attempt to put Sinn Féin in the wrong when we highlight the responsibility of successive British governments for collusion.

Let us make things clear.

Anyone with relevant information should come forward to assist this inquiry.

As I stated at the outset, the British government has never admitted to collusion in any form. It has never acknowledged its responsibility for the many deaths it caused as a result of collusion. This was a major part of its war in Ireland which claimed many lives. The primary responsibility in the search for truth rests with that government.

The IRA admitted its involvement in the killing of these two RUC officers. It saw this attack as an act of war. These were officers in the forces of the British state in Ireland. Both of them played key roles in the conflict. Their deaths were no different to those of senior officers in the RIC who were shot in similar circumstances during the 1919-1921 period. It was actions such as that which led directly to the foundation of this State. But for acts of that kind the Minister's grandfather Eoin MacNéill would not have been a Cabinet Minister and there would be no Irish Cabinet for the present Minister to participate in.

These are, perhaps, unpalatable facts for many in this House to accept but they must be acknowledged if this debate is to have any basis in reality.

There should be no hierarchy of victims and in all of this our focus should be on rebuilding the peace process so that never again will any person die as a result of armed political conflict in our country.

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